Given last week's leak of an early build of Windows 11, the look and feel of the next version of Windows isn't a big surprise today, which is its official reveal day. But Microsoft's positioning and reasoning for introducing a "new" Windows version six years after Windows 10 is more of a story.
Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay set the stage for Windows 11 on June 24 during a roughly hour-long virtual event dedicated to "What's Next for Windows."
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Unsurprisingly, given how hard Microsoft has been beating the hybrid work drum over the past year, the company is positioning Windows 11 better suited for a hybrid world than previous Windows releases. Officials played up how the new UI will help customers be more productive in both work and personal endeavors. It's also probably a shock to no one that Microsoft is claiming Windows 11 is the most secure Windows version to date and is a "zero-trust-ready" operating system.
If you're into the more touchy-feely stuff, Microsoft also is attributing its Windows 11 design decisions like adding rounded corners and new icons as making Windows feel effortless, calmer, and more personal, while still feeling familiar. The company's goal with "cloud-powered" Windows 11, officials said, was to make Windows feel more modern but still familiar enough for existing Windows users to continue working, learning, and playing.
Back to the real world. Microsoft execs are also touting Windows 11 as faster, more battery-efficient, and better for multi-tasking than Windows 10. And they're telling customers that Windows 11 will be best experienced on "new, modern hardware," though it also could still work on many existing PCs.
New PCs with Windows 11 pre-installed will be available this holiday season from a variety of PC makers. It will roll out to those who want to run it on qualifying hardware between this holiday and early 2022 in a staggered way, with devices most likely to handle the upgrade successfully being offered it first. PCs must be on Windows 10 20H1 in order to upgrade to Windows 11.
But for the next several years -- until fall 2025, as Microsoft announced six years ago -- Microsoft and PC makers also will still support Windows 10. And customers who want to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11 will be able to do so for free on devices meeting Microsoft's minimum technical specifications.
Panay also showed off the expected new Microsoft app store, which is expected to be available to both Windows 10 and 11 users this fall. Insiders should get previews of the Windows 11 test build and store app early next week, likely June 28. Windows 11 will be available to mainstream users starting this holiday season.