Microsfot has officially launched its next-gen operating system, Windows 11, almost six years since it released Windows 10.
Unveiled by the tech giant at its virtual event on Thursday, June 24, Windows 11 features a more polished user interface, built-in Auto HDR gaming feature, and support for Android apps, among many others that promise convenience, creativity, and productivity in multitasking.
Some of these upgrades, in fact, come as no surprise given that the internet went abuzz last week over the leaks of Windows 11’s early prototype. Still, this buffed OS that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella described as being “one of the most significant updates of Windows of the past decade” appears to be worthy of the wait.
Read on for everything you need to know about the forthcoming Windows 11.
Simplified taskbar and Snap Groups
Windows 11 features a fresh, clean look starting with its taskbar that has the updated Start menu button and other app icons all aligned at the center. The layout is similar to Windows 10X, the slimmed-down version of its current operating system designed for dual-screen devices.
The new Start menu has replaced its Live Tiles with floating icons of apps and recent files. According to a blog post by Windows Chief Product Officer Panos Panay, the menu will be powered by a cloud and Microsoft 365 “to show your recent files no matter what platform or device you were viewing them on earlier, even if it was on an Android or iOS device.”
The windows on Microsoft’s new OS have rounded corners, like those in Android and iOS. Positioning them to a certain spot on your screen can also be done in a snap using its new Snap Layouts function.
There is also the Snap Groups, which will allow you to remember where your apps are stored. As The Verge notes, this would make it easier for your to work across multiple devices simultaneously and ensure that apps open on the correct screen. Meanwhile, switching from work, gaming, or school is made simple with the Desktops feature that lets you create and customize desktops for each part of your life.
And if you’re spending the entire day working (or playing) on your laptop, you can easily switch from the system’s updated dark mode that you can activate simply by right-clicking anywhere on your desktop.
Integrated Microsoft Teams Chat
Windows 11 is making it convenient for you to communicate with officemates and friends with Microsoft Teams Chat integrated into the taskbar. With this feature, you can instantly chat or call your contacts whether they’re on Windows, Android, or iOS. Panay added, “If the person you’re connecting to on the other end hasn’t downloaded the Teams app, you can still connect with them via two-way SMS.”
Aside from that, you can now easily mute your microphone across all apps, thanks to the universal mute button built into the system tray.
Microsoft is bringing back its Widgets launcher, which provides you with a quick view of news, weather, and other web content even with other windows sprawled across your screen. It slides from the left-hand side of the desktop with a gesture, and you can also make it full-screen.
Auto HDR from Xbox
Windows is upping the ante on PC gaming with three new features fused into its latest OS. First off there’s the Auto HDR, which was initially launched in the Xbox Series X/S to produce a more vivid range of colors and higher luminance in a large number of DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 games.
Another feature is the DirectX 12 Ultimate that enables immersive graphics at high frame rates. Expect to get more speed and higher performance with the DirectStorage, too.
Microsoft is also incorporating a new Xbox app with Xbox Game Pass for PC or Ultimate into Windows 11. The app also comes with xCloud, so you can stream games from Microsoft’s cloud.
New Microsoft Store
Microsoft’s redesign of its OS is further extended to its revamped Microsoft Store. The platform now sports a neat and tidy layout that would make it easy for you to search and discover new apps. In addition, the store will now support a slew of third-party apps, including Adobe Creative Cloud, Visual Studio, Zoom, and Canva.
With the aim to “unlock more opportunities for creators and developers,” Microsoft is opening the store to vendors who would like to bring their apps built as Win32, Progressive Web App (PWA), Universal Windows App (UWP), or any other app framework not previously supported by Windows. What’s more, developers can also use their own commerce engines without the company taking a cut from their revenue.
Android apps support
The major highlight of Windows 11—and one that comes as a real surprise—is that it will also run Android apps for the first time. You can now search for an Android app on the Microsoft Store and download them through the Amazon Appstore. These apps will run on Intel Bridge technology built into the OS. The company plans to spill more deets “in the coming months.”
Windows 11 release date and compatibility
Microsoft hasn’t announced when Windows 11 will be released, but it said that it’s scheduled sometime this holiday. It will come as a free upgrade if your PC meets the system requirements.
Windows 11’s specs mention the need for a 1GHz or higher processor, at least a dual-core 64-bit chip or a system-on-a chip (SoC), and 64 GB or larger storage. The upgrade would also need a security chip called Trusted Platform Module 2.0 (TPM) designed to authenticate your PC or laptop.
Not all PCs are equipped with the chip, but if yours is, you would have to activate it on your system’s BIOS settings. It’s a process that may be too technical for the average customer, according to PCMag.