After numerous leaks and reports, it’s official. Microsoft today announced Windows 11, the next major version of Windows that brings with it a major overhaul of the UI, getting rid of components like live tiles that first debuted with Windows 8 in 2012. While bits of the upcoming version of Windows leaked thanks to the leaked ISO for a pre-release build, the company has a lot to show off today.
The UI refresh – codenamed Sun Valley – has been in the works for a while. The changes were originally thought to be part of an update to Windows 10, which included updated in-box apps, including the Microsoft Store – which was said to introduce new policies to expand the types of apps that can be housed in it. However, the magnitude of changes seems to have warranted a major OS rebranding itself. The firm is also adding support for web widgets, it adds, along with the new policies for the store.
Windows 11 debuts a new Start menu design that houses app icons, instead of live tiles. The taskbar icons are now centered by default, and the flyouts for the Start menu and Action Center now float above the taskbar. There are new animations across the board, which is always a welcome addition when it comes to user experience improvements.
The Action Center that houses the quick actions’ toggles and notifications is also receiving a major update. Just as with other bits in the OS, the firm is borrowing heavily from the now defunct Windows 10X. The quick actions and notifications are now separate sections, allowing for a cleaner design.
That’s not all though, as the firm is also bringing a bunch of enhancements to those using the OS on devices with a touchscreen. There are new gestures to switch between apps, improvements to resizing using a stylus or a finger, and more. These new gestures are coupled with the improved touch keyboard to enhance the experience of using Windows on a tablet or touch-enabled device.
There are improvements to virtual desktops and multitasking, including the window snap feature that was spotted in the earlier build. Virtual desktops can now have separate wallpapers for personalization, and the dedicated icon in the taskbar is now used for virtual desktops alone, replacing Timeline from Windows 10.
When it comes to productivity, the OS will have deep Teams integration, bringing easy and useful ways to quickly access recent chats, set up a meeting, and more.
Windows 11 also brings improvements to performance. Panos Panay says Windows Updates will be 40% smaller, and technologies like Direct Storage will bring better gaming performance. Windows Hello, app launches, and more will also be faster, the firm says.
Next up is the Microsoft Store, which is gaining a huge new capability in the way of support for Android apps, along with a massive visual refresh. The firm is adding an Amazon store to allow users to download Android apps such as TikTok directly into Windows 11 through that store. The apps run similar to how Your Phone displays apps, and is a huge deal. In the past, the company worked on a project - called Astoria - to run Android apps on Windows using the bridge technologies it was building.
As expected, the first ones to receive the official build of Windows 11 will be Windows Insiders. The firm will be releasing updates to gradually polish the rough edges and add features before it releases the OS to users later this holiday. The OS will ship with new devices and for existing Windows 10 users, the firm has launched a PC Health Check app that you can find here for users to check for compatibility.