This week, we’re doing things differently, since the big focus in the last seven days was Microsoft’s next iteration of Windows. As such, this week’s column will be dedicated to anything and everything we know about Windows 11 thus far.
Windows 10 + 1
Despite a widely circulated quote that deemed Windows 10 the ‘last version of Windows’, - at least at its launch nearly six years ago -, it seems Microsoft has no intention of sticking to the number 10 forever. In fact, Windows 10 has an effective retirement (EOL) date of October 14, 2025.
Given the above, it's not surprising that the Redmond giant announced Windows 11 this week. The name itself is also not too unexpected, given the various teases, including the 11-minute slow-fi remix of Windows startup sounds from over the years.
Let's take a closer look at exactly what was announced.
Unlike its predecessors, Windows 11 does change the minimun required spec sheet a tad, requiring a 1Ghz 64-bit dual-core processor, at least 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a screen size greater than 9 inches, DirectX 12 compatible graphics (or support for WDDM 2.x), as well as support for UEFI, Secure Boot, and TPM 2.0.
What’s particularly interesting is that Microsoft had TPM 1.2 as its requirement previously, after which it bumped the requirement up to 2.0. This wouldn’t be too big of a problem, as even processors that don’t have a physical chip would support this via fTPM (firmware TPM, on both the Intel and AMD sides), which is built into most modern processors.
If you’ve downloaded Microsoft’s PC Health Check app, and it showed you a cryptic message about your PC’s inability to run Windows 11, you should be happy to know that the app itself has been updated since then. Now, it’s a little more forthcoming in regards to why your device can’t run the upcoming OS.
As far as OEM requirements go, Microsoft says that all Windows 11 laptops will need to have a webcam starting in 2023, with these same devices also being required to support Bluetooth and Precision Touchpad.
Pricing, availability, and support
Unsurprisingly, much like the feature updates for Windows 10, Windows 11 will also be free for existing users, with the caveat that folks wishing to upgrade must be running the latest variant of Windows 10, and must also meet the minimum hardware specifications.
The OS itself will be made available “later this year” – very likely in October, if previous Windows feature updates are anything to go by -, with an Insider build probably making its way to testers soon. It’s unclear at this point whether the upgrade will be free in perpetuity, or whether there will be a cutoff point.
Another bit of good news for those who are not fans of the current update cadence is that Microsoft will be moving, with Windows 11, to an annual update cycle. The support lifecycle as a whole is also being changed, increasing to 24 months for Home and Pro SKUs, and 36 months for Enterprise and Education SKUs.
New and deprecated features
As is the case with most Windows releases, some features are retained, while others get either deprecated or outright removed. Among the latter features there’s Cortana, who is no longer present during first boot, there’s no more Quick Status on the Lockscreen, S Mode will only be available in Windows 11 Home, and Tablet Mode functionality has been removed entirely, as have Timeline and Wallet.
In further changes to the UI and UX, Start no longer supports named groups and folders of apps, and Live Tiles are no longer available. Furthermore, the Taskbar itself has gotten rid of the People functionality (probably due to the direct Teams integration), alignment of the taskbar is only permitted on the bottom now, and apps can no longer customize areas of the Taskbar.
It’s not all bad news, as the News and Interests feature has morphed into a brand-new Widgets panel, - which may actually support third-party widgets -, while the age-old File Explorer seems prepped for a visual makeover too, akin to the rest of Windows 11’s UI.
Building onto the above, the touch experience has improved quite a bit, as have speech recognition, dictation, gestures, and more. Additionally, a brand-new Microsoft Store is on the way – which Microsoft says is coming to both Windows 11 and Windows 10 -, with support for Android apps.
On the monetization front, the firm will apply its usual 85/15 revenue split (with 88/12 becoming the norm for game devs in August). If you bring your own commerce engine to the store (a la Adobe Creative Cloud), Microsoft takes 0% of that revenue.
Last but not least, it’s worth highlighting the fact that there are a number of other improvements in Windows 11, including better window management with snap groups, better multi-monitor support, support for DirectX 12 Ultimate (and its DirectStorage API), as well as the bringing over of Xbox Game Pass support in the Xbox app, and the Auto HDR feature from the Xbox Series X|S consoles.
Captain Jack Sparrow has landed in Rare’s pirate game as part of Sea of Thieves’ third season update.
Microsoft has announced a series of ‘Designed for Xbox’ monitors to provide the best gaming experience on its platform.
Deals with Gold now feature Assassin’s Creed, FarCry, and more.
Photo editing is now available in OneDrive for the web and on Android.
Microsoft has become a principal partner for the upcoming COP26 event in the UK.
Microsoft has issued an advisory about a cyberattack targeting IT and govt. organizations.
The Redmond giant’s products must be repairable for a sustainable future, insists shareholder body.
We wrap things up with a number of updates not about the next-generation, but rather the current generation of Windows.
For one, we have official confirmation that Windows 10 21H2 is in fact coming later this year, with the company stating it’ll include a number of enhancements to current features to “enable hybrid work”.
Until that’s the case though, version 21H1 is now available to all seekers, with its automatic rollout being extended to more users to coincide with this. Much like the previous two updates before it, 21H1 is closer to an enablement package than to a full-blown feature update.
Moving right along to more Windows 10 news, a number of optional updates have dropped today for folks on 21H1, 20H2, and 2004. The aim of these updates is to improve gaming performance, among other things.
Last but not least, Google’s Project Zero has decided to disclose a privilege escalation bug due to the incomplete fix that was provided by the Redmond software firm.
Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.
If you’d like to get a daily digest of news from Neowin, we now have a Newsletter you can sign up to either via the ‘Get our newsletter’ widget in the sidebar, or this link.