Windows 11: Microsoft’s Most Holistic Approach To An Operating System
We all saw the leaks last week, and while I was left with more questions than answers, it was evident that Microsoft focused on a much more modern, fresher, simpler user interface. What was unclear till today was why Microsoft thought that the update it delivered was worthy of a step-change in number rather than making it a variant of Windows 10. Now I know, it is the end-to-end experience that Windows 11 delivers, which includes improvements to the Microsoft Store and the integration of services and apps for a much more streamlined experience consumers and business users alike can appreciate.
Leading up to the official launch, I was asked several times if I thought there was a need for something else beyond Windows 10 and, more importantly, what I thought the updated OS should deliver. As someone who was really excited about Windows 10X, I thought Windows 11 should deliver on the promise of Windows 10X. The promise of a modern, agile operating system that could support users seamlessly across devices and across operating systems through the cloud.
The pandemic took Windows 10X off course as far as dual-screen and foldable support. Because users’ needs changed, the development of those form factors was put on the backburner. But some of the components Microsoft had planned to roll out into Windows 10X were integrated into Windows 10. I would like to think that the pandemic drove Microsoft to reprioritize, given the PC became a window into the world for so many of us, delivering a skew might not have seemed the right approach to take. The key to success is, of course, providing something new yet familiar and, most of all, something that does not require heavy lifting from IT managers. Windows 11 seems to hit on all these areas. For PCs that meet the technical requirements updating to Windows 11 will be like doing a Windows 10 update.
As I observed Microsoft go through the pandemic and deliver on critical tools like Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Viva, It seems to me that the company is much more willing to take people wherever they need to be by meeting them wherever they are. This is quite a different attitude compared to how Microsoft used to continue to support OS versions and features in order not to upset the enterprise balance. Maybe the best example of this new attitude, outside of the very pro hybrid-work stand, is Surface Duo, a pocketable computing experience running on Android that bridges mobile and PC. With Windows 11, Microsoft is further focusing on bridging mobile and PC by delivering experiences built deep into the OS and leveraging applications such as Microsoft Teams to empower cross-device and cross-OS collaboration and communication.
The reason why I think Windows 11 is the most holistic approach to an operating system Microsoft has ever taken is that, at launch, we didn’t only hear about the new Windows PCs that will arrive in the market for the holidays or about app compatibility and system updates. These are all absolutely critical, don’t get me wrong, but no longer isolated components to consider when evaluating the impact of an operating system.
Microsoft also addressed app availability by creating a more welcoming environment for developers who can now bring as a Win32, Progressive Web App (PWA), or Universal Windows App (UWP) or any other app framework. Developers will then have the choice to use Microsoft commerce with an 85/15 revenue split or bring their own commerce and keep 100% of their revenue. Later this year, the Microsoft Store will also start to showcase Android Apps that users will be able to go and download from the Amazon Appstore and then run on their PCs thanks to Intel Bridge Technology. It will be interesting to see how developers will respond to these changes and how rich an experience the Android apps will deliver to consumers. On paper, this seems like a great idea. Creating a rich ecosystem on Windows with the apps millions of consumers use every day on their Android phones. For developers, the opportunity to also deliver Windows apps using their own payment systems so as not to share revenue should be pretty compelling, coming at a time when consumers have never been more engaged with their PCs. And of course, developers will not be the only ones who will notice the store revenue change practice: competitors, as well as politicians and regulators, will also.
Over the past six months, two topics have dominated many of my conversations with the press and customers: future PC demand and Apple’s M1 Macs growth. After seeing Windows 11, there is no question it will have a significant role to play in impacting both. The richness and simplicity of experience that Windows 11 promises to deliver will help sustain the engagement we have built with our PCs during the pandemic. As our mobility increases, so will the time spent on our smartphones, but the quality of our engagement with the PC can remain strong. Only a continued engagement will drive hardware upgrades long term. The tighter integration between Android and Windows and the deeper integration of cloud and first-party apps will also get PC OEM a step closer to how Apple differentiates its M1 Macs beyond the silicon.
Finally, it is impossible to look at Windows 11 and not see the influence Panos Panay has had on this release both in its look and feels and its determination in helping us get stuff done without getting in the way. More importantly, though, in putting users, not IT managers, first or at least on the same level so that Windows 11 can bring you closer to what you love, including getting you closer to love Microsoft.