Microsoft has announced that Windows 11 will be released on October 5th. Given Windows 11 was only announced on June 24th, this timeline is definitely aggressive, just 103 days. Previously Windows releases would be tested for years within the Insider program before ever making it to release candidate status.
After using it for months now, across multiple machines, Windows 11 is really Windows 10 with some nice UI changes, improved consistency in Settings, as well as improvements in performance and the less obvious, security.
Even Microsoft lists just 11 points in the ‘highlights’ of this release.
- The new design and sounds are modern, fresh, clean and beautiful, bringing you a sense of calm and ease.
- With Start, we’ve put you and your content at the center. Start utilizes the power of the cloud and Microsoft 365 to show you your recent files no matter what device you were viewing them on.
- Snap Layouts, Snap Groups and Desktops provide an even more powerful way to multitask and optimize your screen real estate.
- Chat from Microsoft Teams integrated into the taskbar provides a faster way to connect to the people you care about.
- Widgets, a new personalized feed powered by AI, provides a faster way to access the information you care about, and with Microsoft Edge’s world class performance, speed and productivity features you can get more done on the web.
- Windows 11 delivers the best Windows ever for gaming and unlocks the full potential of your system’s hardware with technology like DirectX12 Ultimate, DirectStorage and Auto HDR. With Xbox Game Pass for PC or Ultimate you get access to over 100 high-quality PC games to play on Windows 11 for one low monthly price. (Xbox Game Pass sold separately.)
- Windows 11 comes with a new Microsoft Store rebuilt with an all-new design making it easier to search and discover your favorite apps, games, shows, and movies in one trusted location. We look forward to continuing our journey to bring Android apps to Windows 11 and the Microsoft Store through our collaboration with Amazon and Intel; this will start with a preview for Windows Insiders over the coming months.
- Windows 11 is the most inclusively designed version of Windows with new accessibility improvements that were built for and by people with disabilities.
- Windows 11 unlocks new opportunities for developers and creators. We are opening the Store to allow more developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) to bring their apps to the Store, improving native and web app development with new developer tools, and making it easier for you to refresh the look and feel across all our app designs and experiences.
- Windows 11 is optimized for speed, efficiency and improved experiences with touch, digital pen and voice input.
- Windows 11 is the operating system for hybrid work, delivering new experiences that work how you work, are secure by design, and easy and familiar for IT to deploy and manage. Businesses can also test Windows 11 in preview today in Azure Virtual Desktop, or at general availability by experiencing Windows 11 in the new Windows 365.
What’s not included in that list is the promised native Android apps, which will be delayed until some time in 2022. There are some other glaring issues that need to be fixed before Windows 11 can be shipped. Firstly there’s the issue of the taskbar being restricted to just your primary monitor, not great for those running multiple displays.
There’s also the weird right-click menu on the desktop or Windows Explorer that has a ‘Show more options’ link, which just shows the old right-click menu.
It’s also super clumsy to switch audio devices, like between a set of external speakers.
I do really appreciate that Windows 11 finally completes a job that started in Windows 8 and that was migrating items from the Control Panel, to the Settings app. Settings is now comprehensive enough that you can manage your computer’s configuration in there, without having to fire up the old UI for Control Panel.
When it comes to the central start menu, it’s different, but in a couple of days your muscle memory adapts and it’s pretty natural. If you’re like me and use the Winkey to launch the start menu, then select with the mouse, this still works well. I don’t miss the live tiles that are no longer available in Windows 11.
The new snap zones for larger monitors are really useful, however, the FanzyZones from PowerToys is still vastly superior and should just be included in Windows. Something else I wish was in Windows 11 is the ability to batch optimise photos. It seems a large majority of users would face this issue but are left to find thirds party tools. Given Windows helps you batch rename, or individually edit Photos, this seems like a weird piece of functionality to leave out of that workflow.
One thing I do really appreciate is the improvements to Windows remembering application posiitons between states. This means apps you position on external monitors are remembered the next time you dock and changing between just your laptop and multiple displays happens a lot faster now. This is great if you’re up and down to meetings multiple times per day.
The refreshed Store UI is definitely better but didn’t necessarily have me using it more often. I’m so in-tuned with doing most things on the web, that I’m much more likely to launch Chrome and grab bom.gov.au than I am to download an app (which likely has ads).
Finally, there is the consumer version of Teams built right into the operating system. Personally, I use Microsoft Teams in a work context, so already had the full client. I imagine most families are already chatting using social platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other alternatives, so it’ll be a hard sell for people to move to the stripped-down version of Teams, just because it’s in Win11.
With all that taken into consideration, Windows 11 is something you want, it’s a nice upgrade to Windows 10 and that raises the question of how to get it. If you buy a new machine after October 5th, then look for OEMs like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo who will be shipping Windows 11 on new hardware, adding to Microsoft’s very own Surface hardware. This will be how the vast majority of users get the update.
For those with recent hardware, say the past few years, you should be able to update. The standard process for doing that is to wait for the free upgrade to Windows 11 to show up in Windows Update. The timeline for when you see this will differ dramatically based on the system you have but will be rolled to known supported hardware first. Expect this to be in 2022.
If you’re not that patient, there’ll be an ISO available and you can install it that way, just remember this is an upgrade license, if you’re building a new system, you’d still need a full Windows license.
If you’re concerned your computer may not run Windows 11, you can refer to the System Requirements here.