Kathy Gibson reports – Microsoft has launched Windows 11, the latest iteration of the operating systems that debuted 35 years ago.

“This comes at a time when the PC has played a more important time in our lives,” says Frank Shaw, corporate vice-president: communications at Microsoft. “Over the last ear, 1-billion more people than ever before have used Windows.

“These people have been working, but also playing games and communicating. We believe the PC will continue to play a central role in connecting us to one another.”

Next week, the first build will roll out, although all the features will only be seen by the end of the year.

With a host of new features, Windows 11 boasts simplified design and user experience, says Panos Panay, chief product officer: Windows + Devices at Microsoft.

“It’s modern, fresh, clean and beautiful. From the new Start button and taskbar to each sound, font and icon, everything was done intentionally to put you in control and bring a sense of calm and ease.”

The Start button is now in the centre of the screen, and use cloud and Microsoft 365 to show users their recent files no matter what platform or device they were viewing them on earlier.

Snap Layouts, Snap Groups and Desktops help users to multitask by organising windows and optimising screen real estate. They can also create separate, cusomised Desktops for each part of their life.

Connecting to other people has become more important than ever during the pandemic, and Windows 11 aims to make it easy for people to stay close with each other no matter where they are, with the device or platform not presenting a barrier.

“With Windows 11, we’re excited to introduce Chat from Microsoft Teams integrated in the taskbar,” Panay says. “Now you can instantly connect through text, chat, voice or video with all of your personal contacts, anywhere, no matter the platform or device they’re on, across Windows, Android or iOS.

“If the person you’re connecting to on the other end hasn’t downloaded the Teams app, you can still connect with them via two-way SMS.”

Windows 11 also offers a more natural way to connect with friends and family through Teams, allowing instant mute and unmute, or the ability to start presenting directly from the taskbar.

Gaming has also taken off over the past 18 months. “Today, hundreds of millions of people around the world game on Windows and find joy and connection with loved ones and friends through play,” Panay says. “Windows 11 unlocks the full potential of your system’s hardware, putting some of the latest gaming technology to work for you.”

Features include DirectX 12 Ultimate, DirectStorage and Auto HDR

“Nothing has changed in our commitment to hardware compatibility – Windows 11 supports your favorite PC gaming accessories and peripherals,” Panay adds. “With Xbox Game Pass for PC or Ultimate, gamers get access to over 100 high-quality PC games with new games added all the time, and it’s still just as easy to find people to play with, no matter if they’re playing on a PC or console.”

Windows 11 aims to bring users closer to news and information with Widgets – a personalised feed powered by AI with browser performance from Microsoft Edge.

“Even when we’re at our most focused and creative we still need breaks – a moment to check in with the outside world or give ourselves a mental reset,” Panay explains. “Today, we often pick up our phones to check the news, weather or notifications. Now, you can open a similarly curated view directly from your desktop. When you open your personalised feed it slides across your screen like a sheet of glass so it doesn’t disrupt what you’re doing.

“For creators and publishers, Widgets also opens new real estate within Windows to deliver personalised content.”

There’s also a new Microsoft Store that’s been rebuilt for speed and simplicity. “Not only will we bring you more apps than ever before, we’re also making all content – apps, games, shows, movies – easier to search for and discover with curated stories and collections,” Panay explains.

“We’re excited to soon be welcoming leading first and third-party apps like Microsoft Teams, Visual Studio, Disney+, Adobe Creative Cloud, Zoom and Canva to the Microsoft Store. When you download an app from the Store you have the peace of mind of knowing it’s been tested for security and family safety.”

For the first time, Android apps will be available on Windows. “Starting later this year, people will be able to discover Android apps in the Microsoft Store and download them through the Amazon Appstore,” says Panay.

Microsoft has partnered with Amazon and Intel using their Intel Bridge technology to enable this feature.

The company is also enabling developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) to bring their apps to the Microsoft Store regardless of whether they’re built as a Win32, Progressive Web App (PWA), Universal Windows App (UWP) or any other app framework.

“We’re also announcing a progressive change to our revenue share policies where app developers can now bring their own commerce into our Store and keep 100% of the revenue – Microsoft takes nothing. App developers can still use our commerce with a competitive revenue share of 85/15,” Panay adds.

For IT, Windows 11 is built on the familiar Windows 10 foundation, so CIOs can plan for, prepare and deploy Windows 11 just as they do today with Windows 10.

“Upgrading to Windows 11 will be like taking a Windows 10 update,” Panay says. “The familiar management experiences you have in place today – like Microsoft Endpoint Manager, cloud configuration, Windows Update for Business and Autopilot – will support your environment of tomorrow as you integrate Windows 11 into your estate.

“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.”

Panay says Windows 11 is also secure by design, with built-in security technologies that will add protection from the chip to the cloud, while enabling productivity and new experiences.

“Windows 11 provides a Zero Trust-ready operating system to protect data and access across devices. We have worked closely with our OEM and silicon partners to raise security baselines to meet the needs of the evolving threat landscape and the new hybrid work world.”

Major PC vendors are ready to launch hardware running Windows 11.

“Since day one of developing Windows 11, we have been working closely with our hardware and silicon partners for seamless integration across software and hardware,” Panay says. “That co-engineering begins with innovation in the silicon. From AMD and the incredible graphics depth brought by the Ryzen processors to the incredible performance of Intel’s 11th gen and Evo Processors, to Qualcomm’s AI prowess, 5G and Arm support, the innovation of our silicon partners brings together the best of Windows 11 with the largest hardware ecosystem in the world.

“And with Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Surface and others, we’ve worked to ensure most PCs you can buy today will be ready for Windows 11 – across a variety of form factors and price points.”

Windows 11 allows users to take advantage of improved experiences with touch, inking and voice, Panay adds.

“When you use Windows 11 on a tablet without a keyboard, we’ve improved the experience for touch, creating more space between the icons in the taskbar, adding bigger touch targets and subtle visual cues to make resizing and moving windows easier, as well as adding gestures.

“We’re also enabling haptics to make using your pen even more engaging and immersive – allowing you to hear and feel the vibrations as you click through and edit or sketch. Lastly, we’ve brought forward enhancements in voice typing. Windows 11 is incredible at recognizing what you say; it can automatically punctuate for you, and comes with voice commands. This is a fantastic feature for when you want to take a break from typing and speak your ideas instead.”

Windows 11 will be available through a free upgrade for eligible Windows 10 PCs and on new PCs.

Pictured: Panos Panay launches Windows 11