It’s more than a repositioned start button

by Joseph K. Clark

Microsoft has introduced the next iteration of its Windows desktop operating system. There are slight tweaks to the user interface, but CEO Satya Nadella sees Windows 11 as setting the stage for the next decade of Microsoft.

“Today marks a major milestone in the history of Windows,” he said. “It’s the beginning of a new generation. Throughout history, Windows has been a democratizing force for the world. Windows has always stood for sovereignty for creators and agency for consumers.”  For Nadella, the focus of the new operating system is to demonstrate that Windows has become a more open platform.

repositioned start button

“There is no personal computing without personal agency,” he said. “Personal computing requires choice. We need to nurture and grow our own agency over computing itself. We want to remove the barriers to provide real choice. We need to be empowered to choose the applications we run, the content we consume, the people we connect to. Operating systems and devices should mold to our needs, not the other way round.”

Nadella described Windows 11 as a platform for platform creators, offering frictionless access to apps and content. “Today, the world needs a more open platform, one that allows apps that can be their own platform – like the web,” he said. “That’s our aspiration for Windows. This is the first version of a new era of Windows. We’re building for the next decade and beyond.”

Microsoft plans to provide application compatibility with Windows 10 and offers free support for enterprises within 150 or more Microsoft 365 seats to support migrations to Windows 11 through its App Assure program. The company also wants to entice more third-party developers to the platform and its Microsoft Store. It said it offers “competitive revenue share terms” at 85%/15% for apps and 88%/12% for games.

Starting on 28 July, app developers will also have an option to use their own or a third-party commerce platform in their apps, said Microsoft. This means they can avoid paying Microsoft any fees for the sales of their apps. Microsoft claims that on Windows 11, it has not only improved the speed of its edge web browser, but all browsers will run faster. It said the new operating system also wakes from sleep faster and Windows Updates are 40% smaller.

In terms of the user interface, Microsoft said it has modernized the design and user experience in Windows 11. The new version now offers Snap Layouts, Snap Groups, and Desktops to help multitask and organization of Windows.

There is also direct integration with Microsoft Teams from the Taskbar, allowing Windows 11 users to connect through text, chat, voice, or video with anyone across Windows, Android, and iOS.  Among the new features that Microsoft used to demonstrate its openness is Android support via the Amazon Appstore.

Discussing Android support, Daniel Rausch, vice-president, entertainment devices & services at Amazon, said: “We’re excited to bring Android mobile apps to Windows 11 customers across multiple genres such as social, games, education, and more by integrating the Amazon Appstore and Microsoft Store. And the opportunity for developers is huge – bringing hundreds of millions of new Windows customers to Amazon Appstore developers.”

Commenting on the implications for businesses,  JP Gownder, vice-president and principal analyst at Forrester, said: “Windows 11 is built upon the same core codebase as Windows 10. That’s good news – it means that the application and driver ‘breakage’ that famously plagued OS releases like Windows Vista is unlikely to occur. And Win32 apps will still be able to run natively on Windows 11.”

Geoff Blaber, CEO at analyst firm CCS Insight, said: “For commercial customers, Windows 11 represents far less upheaval than the transition to Windows 10, as it has the same core codebase. Upgrade cycles should be much faster and potentially accelerated by the promise of greater security and more integrated Office 365 and Teams features.”

Blaber said there is now a clear distinction between the x86-based Windows PC and Apple’s M1 running MacOS. “In the face of a heightened competitive threat from Apple’s M1-based Macs, Microsoft is emphasizing its philosophy of openness and connecting ecosystems by supporting Android apps and the Amazon App store,” he said. “The contrast with Apple is becoming ever sharper, giving customers a clear choice.

“The value of Android apps will come down to user experience and performance. Nonetheless, the combination of Android apps alongside a more flexible Microsoft Store and capable browser should more fully address a weakness that has long plagued Windows relative to the competition.”

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