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Microsoft showcases what's new in Windows 11

Fri 25 Jun 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

After what is quite possibly the worst-kept ‘secret’ of the year, Microsoft has officially announced details of the upcoming Windows 11 operating system. 

And yes, the upgrade is free for eligible Windows 10 PCs. More on that soon...

A look at Windows 11 features

The design, according to Microsoft, has been simplified to be ‘modern, fresh, clean, and beautiful’. Just as the leaks suggested, the Start button has now been moved to the bottom middle of the desktop, instead of the far left in Windows 10 and earlier.

Three new types of window and ‘snap’ layouts are coming to Windows 11. These include Snap Layouts, Snap Groups and Desktops to help organise windows and screens. Users can also set up separate desktops - for example, a desktop for work, another for personal use, another for gaming, and maybe one for the kids.

The Windows 11 taskbar will include integrated Chat from Microsoft Teams for text, chat, voice, and video calls with contacts.   For those calling contacts who don’t have Teams, the app will automatically default to two-way SMS.

Windows 11 will include a personalised feed via Microsoft Edge and AI, similar to Windows 10. Users can set up direct feeds for news, weather, notifications, and other options.   Creators can also develop Widgets for Windows 11.

Very little has changed in the gaming space, except for support for DirectX 12 Ultimate, DirectStorage, and Auto HDR.  Xbox Game Pass for PC is still Microsoft’s main focal point for games on PCs and Xbox consoles.

Windows 11 Home edition will also internet connectivity and a Microsoft account to complete device setup on first use - we're not sure if this means you can't set up a local account on first usage, but we'll report with updates. Switching a device out of Windows 11 Home in S mode also requires internet connectivity.

IT management for Windows

Existing IT management tools such as Microsoft Endpoint Manager, Windows Update for Business, Autopilot, and cloud configuration will return in Windows 11. 

“Just as with Windows 10, we are deeply committed to app compatibility, which is a core design tenet of Windows 11. We stand behind our promise that your applications will work on Windows 11 with App Assure, a service that helps customers with 150 or more users fix any app issues they might run into at no additional cost.”

Microsoft Store gets a refresh, plus more opportunities for devs and ISVs

Microsoft is heavily promoting changes to its native Microsoft Store, which has been redesigned to fit with the new features in Windows 11 and will also roll out to Windows 10.

Microsoft says the Store is ‘one of the most used apps on PCs’. While users love the store, app developers have previously been frustrated with technical and policy constraints that make it hard for them to publish their apps. This, according to Microsoft Store GM Giorgio Sardo, is why the company redesigned the store.

The store will include apps from the likes of Adobe, Disney+, Zoom and Microsoft’s own apps like Teams and Notepad, as well as movie discounts for Xbox Game Pass members, and editorial content called Stories.

Developers can now publish any app to Microsoft Store, no matter what app framework and packaging technologies they have used - for example, Electron, Java, Progressive Web Apps, .NET, and more. Developers can also use Microsoft’s open source PWABuilder 3 to develop apps.

From 28 July, developers and ISVs can choose to use the Microsoft Commerce platform with 85/15 for apps and 88/12 for games, or they can choose to use a third party platform. Microsoft will not charge fees or ask for revenue cuts.

Amazon Appstore coming to Microsoft Store

Microsoft has teamed up with Amazon to include all of Amazon’s Android apps and games to Windows, which means that people can now use Microsoft Store to discover Android Apps, and they can use Amazon Appstore on Windows 11 to download them.  

Developers using the Amazon Appstore to publish Android apps will also be able to publish to Windows.

Amazon Appstore and cross-screen technology director Palanidaran Chidambaram states, “Today we offer a broad selection of mobile apps in our Amazon Appstore, available across Fire TV, Fire Tablets, and Android devices that our customers use and enjoy every day.”

“With this announcement, Amazon Appstore developers will now have the opportunity to make their Android apps available to hundreds of millions of Windows customers.”

The Amazon Appstore selection will be available on Windows later this year.

What features from Windows 10 won't be in Windows 11

The following list is direct from Microsoft:

  • Cortana will no longer be included in the first boot experience or pinned to the Taskbar.
  • Desktop wallpaper cannot be roamed to or from device when signed in with a Microsoft account.
  • Internet Explorer is disabled. Microsoft Edge is the recommended replacement and includes IE Mode which may be useful in certain scenarios.
  • Math Input Panel is removed. Math Recognizer will install on demand and includes the maths input control and recogniser. Maths inking in apps like OneNote are not impacted by this change.
  • News & Interests has evolved. New functionality has been added which can be found by clicking the Widgets icon on the Taskbar.
  • Quick Status from the Lockscreen and associated settings are removed.
  • S Mode is only available now for Windows 11 Home edition.
  • Snipping Tool continues to be available but the old design and functionality in the Windows 10 version has been replaced with those of the app previously known as Snip & Sketch.
  • Start is significantly changed in Windows 11 including the following key deprecations and removals:
    • Named groups and folders of apps are no longer supported and the layout is not currently resizable.
    • Pinned apps and sites will not migrate when upgrading from Windows 10.
    • Live Tiles are no longer available. For glanceable, dynamic content, see the new Widgets feature.
  • Tablet Mode is removed and new functionality and capability is included for keyboard attach and detach postures.
  • Taskbar functionality is changed including:
  • People is no longer present on the Taskbar.
  • Some icons may no longer appear in the System Tray (systray) for upgraded devices including previous customisations.
  • Alignment to the bottom of the screen is the only location allowed.
  • Apps can no longer customise areas of the Taskbar.
  • Timeline is removed. Some similar functionality is available in Microsoft Edge.
  • Touch Keyboard will no longer dock and undock keyboard layouts on screen sizes 18 inches and larger.
  • Wallet is removed.

The following apps will not be removed on upgrade but will no longer be installed on new devices or when clean-installing Windows 11. They are available for download from the Store:

  • 3D Viewer
  • OneNote for Windows 10
  • Paint 3D
  • Skype

When is Windows 11 coming to your PC?

New PCs: Microsoft is working with manufacturers including Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Surface and others to ensure that most PCs in stores now will be ready for Windows 11. Some devices will be marked as eligible for a free upgrade, and customers can also ask retailers to check.

Existing Windows PCs: Here’s Microsoft’s official statement:

“Windows 11 will be available through a free upgrade for eligible Windows 10 PCs and on new PCs beginning this holiday. To check if your current Windows 10 PC is eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 11, visit Windows.com to download the PC Health Check app.”

"We’re also working with our retail partners to make sure Windows 10 PCs you buy today are ready for the upgrade to Windows 11. The free upgrade will begin to roll out to eligible Windows 10 PCs this holiday and continuing into 2022. 

“Next week, we’ll begin to share an early build of Windows 11 to the Windows Insider Program.”

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