Windows 11: New Features and Tentative Release Date

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One thing the pandemic taught us is that the PC is not dead. It’s crucial for working and attending school from home. After watching one of the slickest launches I’ve yet seen this decade, I’m convinced Windows 11 will be an even bigger deal than Windows 95 was when it launched.  

With this launch Windows 11 begins to break the paradigm that founded the computing industry last century.  That paradigm, which goes back to the last industrial revolution, is that humans have to adapt their tools. But with the emergence of AI, these computer tools are now learning to adapt to us.  Windows 11 is the first significant desktop step in this new direction.  According to reporting from The Verge, Microsoft has hinted it will release the new OS in October of 2021, with October 6 and October 20 as likely candidates. 

Let’s explore Windows 11 this week and the disruptive and overdue change it will help drive into the computing industry.  

Windows 11 is a shift in focus from revenue to customer needs

Windows 11 is the first major release that was entirely conceived under Satya Nadella’s leadership, and it reflects the seed change in Microsoft. This change not only strategically moved Azure ahead of Windows within the company, it completed Microsoft’s pivot to lead in both open source and interoperability. This pivot also shifted Microsoft from a company focused on growing revenue to one that is focused on serving its customers.   

This move is a critical pivot and contrasts with Apple who remains even more focused on growing revenue since Steve Jobs passed.  For instance, Windows 11 developers can keep the revenue they generate inside their apps, unlike the Apple Store’s effort to take a cut of everything regardless of any benefit Apple provides. This excessive revenue focus creates blindness to anti-developer practices but was an industry norm two decades ago. Still, with Apple and Oracle as apparent exceptions, most of the industry has shifted to the new, more user, developer focus that has proven to be far less problematic long term.  Windows 11 reflects this shift in that it is tightly focused on increasing user productivity and developer success.  

Windows 11 new features set a new standard

Critical improvements that should drive relatively rapid deployment are a significant shift in security, requiring an active 2.0 TPM and secure boot enabled, making it far more difficult to compromise the platform with malware. An advanced speech to text capability, which includes automated punctuation and document structure capabilities, allows you to more efficiently and quickly take a document you’ve dictated into final form. We’ve had text to speech for years, but the lack of punctuation made the process painful for most to use. There are significant performance improvements that should reduce boot and app load times, and a new widget feature that can be used to present employees with critical time-sensitive information in real time.  

But the most significant shift is that the platform will learn from the user and adapt to how the user works over time.  As it evolves between future versions, this feature should result in a unique and customized user experience that will self-optimize for each unique user.  There’s also higher integration with collaborative products like Microsoft Teams and improved tools to assure your microphone is on when you want and not when you don’t. I’d anticipate camera features like this in future versions of the product or even as an update between major releases. Many improvements will flow through to Office like dictation and more consistent themes between the OS and Office apps.  

Finally, support for Android apps will make it easier to create apps that work on both Android phones and PCs.

Hardware requirements are stiffer than they have been because of the critical need to secure these desktop computers better.  Hardware will need and have to have enabled both TPM 2.0 and Secure boot.  Support for Windows 10 will continue through mid-2025 but, I expect the security mitigation alone will force many to move far sooner than that. 

How Windows 11 brings adaptive technology to the PC

Much like Windows 95 began the move by most of the industry to graphical user interfaces and eventually the internet, Windows 11 begins our move to PCs that adapt to how we work and that can better resist the kinds of malware, particularly ransomware, that currently plague the world.  

The product won’t get to general availability until fall, so you have plenty of time to test and at least get your most vulnerable users on the platform early in the cycle. Many companies will be surprised that existing features like TPMs and Secure boot, required to be turned on for Windows 11, are now off, and I’d suggest fixing that before you begin your move to Windows 11. If you experience a breach and discover that the breach resulted because you’d not enabled security features you have paid for, the outcome could be ugly.

Finally, for those of us that also use our laptops for entertainment when we travel, there are enhancements to gaming and movie viewing that you’ll likely appreciate. Windows 11 represents the beginning of a new future for personal computing, one that has been a long time in coming, but one I’m sure we’ll appreciate greatly when it finally arrives.  

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