At a virtual online event last night, Panos Panay, chief product officer of Windows and Devices, revealed Windows 11 – the next major version of Windows that’s coming as a free upgrade to those who have Windows 10.
“The past 18 months brought an incredible shift in how we used our PCs; we went from fitting the PC into our lives to trying to fit our whole lives into the PC,” said Panay. “Our devices weren’t just where we went for meetings, classes and to get things done, but where we came to play games with friends, binge watch shows and, connect with one another. In the process, we found ourselves recreating the office banter, the hallway chatter, workouts, happy hours and holiday celebrations – digitally.”
For this reason, a few things have been added to and removed from Windows to make the next version more accessible. We’ve chosen the five most notable features from Windows 11:
1. Redesigned Start menu
Don’t panic! It’s not a Windows 8 level of redesign, but it is a little different. The taskbar has moved from the left to the centre, which is good news for tablet owners. This shift makes the taskbar look similar to macOS’s bottom dock. The start menu itself will look more like a grid of more apps, rather than a list of apps and folders. Users can customise their pinned apps, and have 18 favourite apps ready at the click of the start button.
2. Improved Snap Grids
The Snap feature, which was launched with Windows 7, will now get more functionality. Windows Snap is a feature for users to equally split their desktop screens in half by dragging the window into the side of the display, which makes the window automatically resize to half of the screen. Instead of this one layout, Windows 11 will have five additional layouts, as shown below. These apps can also now be grouped and minimized as a set, instead of a user having to minimize each app separately.
3. Teams replaces Skype
Instead of having Skype preinstalled, Microsoft Teams will now be preinstalled with Windows. There will also be a new taskbar widget for Teams, so users can jump back into their conversations faster. It also allows users to mute and unmute, or start presenting directly from the taskbar.
4. Good news for gamers
DirectX 12 Ultimate and DirectStorage are coming to Windows 11, which means better-looking graphics, higher frame rates, and faster loading times. With an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, users don’t need the latest hardware for the best graphics, because they can stream games to their PCs from the cloud.
5. The Microsoft Store opens to more app developers
More developers can now publish to the Microsoft Store, thanks to the addition of the ability to publish Win32 or Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to the store. In the past, developers had to use the Universal Windows App standard to publish to the store. Since Windows is still mostly Win32, the store will get apps like Canva, Zoom, Adobe Creative Cloud, and – strangely enough – Microsoft Teams. Developers with their own commerce platform will not have to share revenue with Microsoft, which will make Adobe very happy, but smaller developers can still use Microsoft’s commerce platform, which follows an 85/15 revenue share.
Windows 11 will roll out as a free upgrade to those who have Windows 10, and will be delivered via Windows Update towards the end of this year.
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