An early build of the new computer software leaked earlier this week, revealing the new Start Menu, Widgets, and the end of Live Tiles, as well as hinting at the updates to the Xbox app and snap controls.
Windows 11 has a striking similarity to Windows 10X, the dual-screen operating system Microsoft developed, and then abandoned, for dual-screen devices – which is likely where the design for the new Start Menu launcher originated.
The user interface has been revamped with rounded corners and translucent panels, updated light and dark modes, and easier ways to snap windows to the left and the right of the screen.
“Windows Hello is faster”, Windows head Panos Panos said, and browsing on any browser, including Edge, is apparently faster - something that the company hinted at during its Build 2021 conference. Windows updates are 40 per cent smaller too, and laptops’ battery life is apparently better as a result of the update.
Microsoft says Windows will also remember where you were on a screen - so if you unplug a second monitor and then plug it back in, the original layout will immediately pop back up - and two new features called “Snap Layouts” and “multiple displays”.
Snap Layouts and Snap Groups lets users group apps together in the new Start Menu, which can then be brought up at a click of a button; the new Desktops feature, meanwhile, lets users quickly switch between profiles - a ‘work’ mode, a ‘home’ mode, and a ‘gaming’ mode are the examples Microsoft showed in the stream.
Microsoft Teams, its videoconferencing tool, is now built-in directly to the operating system as a replacement for Skype. During the pandemic, Skype was sidelined in favour of Zoom, and Teams grew from 44 million daily users in March 2020 to a claimed 115 million active users in October 2020. Skype for Business, meanwhile, will be sundowned this year to make way for Teams.
“If you’re a gamer, Windows 11 was made for you”, Mr Panay also said, as a way of introducing features from the Xbox Series X that will be making their way to PCs in this operating system.
Games on Windows 11 now have AutoHDR, which updates lighting and colour to high dynamic range, and the new Direct Storage feature means games can quickly load directly to the graphics card, which should make them faster.
A new, dedicated Xbox app will also integrate with Xbox Game Pass for streaming titles from Bethesda - as Microsoft purchased its parent company ZeniMax for $7.5 billion last year - as well as EA and third-party developers.
The Microsoft Store itself is refreshed too, and will now feature Android apps via the Amazon AppStore. One might expect Microsoft to partner with Google and its Play Store, but Amazon’s storefront will be integrated into in the Windows Store directly - with the apps running via Intel Bridge technology when it finally launches.
Windows 11 will be a free upgrade, with a preview build available next week, and a full version coming to users beginning “this holiday season”.
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