Microsoft Windows 11 is much more than just a new theme on top of Windows 10

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Today was our first official look at Windows 11 thanks to Microsoft’s What’s New For Windows event. This isn’t just a repackaged version of Windows 10; it’s a new operating system that offers many major changes.

Windows 11, however, truly receives a facelift. A large part of its new desktop environment is designed to resemble frosted glass with its translucent window dressing and rounded corners. Compiz-based desktop environments from around 2010 seem to have inspired the new design — but with improved resolution and a clearer theme.

Microsoft’s Panos Panay says the new look is based on insights about emotion: “We understand the responsibility of the [functionality and practicality] more than ever before, but it must also feel emotional and personal.”

The new look probably won’t make anyone but Panay get giddy-but its ubiquitous transparent borders do remind users that their real work is still lurking beneath pop-ups like the personalized widget feed.

Beautiful on the inside, too

Panay spent a few moments explaining why Windows 11 is a “beautiful operating system on the inside,” emphasizing performance improvements that are unfortunately not measurable.

  • Authentication using Windows Hello biometrics is faster
  • Faster waking up from sleep
  • There is a 40% reduction in Windows Update size, it is faster, and it happens automatically.
  • The Microsoft Edge browser is faster
  • It is faster to browse on any browser, which is awesome”
  • Windows 11 is more energy-efficient, which makes it a more “responsible” operating system, according to Panay.
  • One of the most important benefits of Windows 11 is its increased security.

In spite of Panay’s laundry list of improvements, she did not provide any details. Windows 11 shouldn’t be considered “the most secure Windows yet”.

An updated start menu and a new newsfeed

An updated start menu and a new newsfeed
Image Credits: Microsoft

Many Windows users hated the newsfeed feature introduced in earlier versions of the operating system. However, Microsoft hasn’t yet given up on its own, outside-of-browser newsfeed. A separate newsfeed dialog has been added to Windows 11, similar to (but not part of) the Start menu.

During a discussion of the new Start menu and the separate newsfeed, Panay dipped into “emotion” once more. “It is what you need, closer to you, simplified,” he said of the new, centrally located Start menu. By eliminating newsfeed tiles from the Start menu, you can now access recent documents and applications. Panay said, “the details matter,” explaining that it is the details that allow you to get into the emotional zone and accomplish what you need to do.

Those missing Metro-style tiles, referred to by the more industry-standard term “widgets” and augmented with a top-mounted search bar, are effectively the separate newsfeed, which appeared on the left during Panay’s demonstrations. “How it all flows together is meant to bring you to an incredible sense of calm,” Panay expressed.

Many task management improvements

Many task management improvements
Image Credits: Microsoft

Adding snap layouts and virtual desktops to Windows is a highly useful feature that Zlateff added. In essence, a snap layout enables multiple applications to be laid out in a tiled format.

Zlateff claims that Windows 11’s implementation of tiling is rather clever, as it directly correlates with screen resolution and orientation. The user can then drag apps into various sizes and positions within the fixed borders, after selecting a layout.

Many task management improvements
Image Credits: Microsoft

It is easy to create snap groups (apps that are snapped into tiled layouts and are accessible as a group) with snap layouts. Users with experience with Linux might argue that snap groups are Microsoft’s incarnation of virtual desktops-although Windows 11 offers a similar feature as well, separate from virtual desktops. The virtual desktop will be displayed on the screen after clicking the “screen” button.

You can use snap groups by clicking the taskbar once, just as you open and close individual apps. Besides opening and closing the group of apps, clicks on the taskbar are also capable of launching snap groups. The feature is described as only available in each application and/or project on Windows.

Many task management improvements
Image Credits: Microsoft

The docking and undocking of laptops was greatly enhanced. Due to the removal of a second, external monitor attached to Zlateff’s laptop, applications were reorganized over one monitor. The apps all reopened after the display had been reconnected. There have been improvements to the Tablet’s software and language capabilities.

“Windows [11] adapts to you, not the other way around,” Philip McClure said when he introduced the new input modes in Windows 11. The direct translation is that McClure’s 2-in-1 touchscreen laptop will have larger touch targets and smaller visual cues that will only help in tablet mode, while the look and feel of Windows will remain the same.

Microsoft Windows 11 incorporates the following alternative input features:

In order to make it easier to highlight and write with a stylus, updated pen support was shown and new stylus haptic feedback was mentioned. A brand-new touch keyboard, which is configurable, with swiping and a sticky location on the screen, as well as a text selection space bar on the keyboard, is employed in this design. Recognition has been updated to better handle automatic punctuation and inline voice commands (e.g., “delete that” while dictating).

This wireless television projection (likely similar to mobile phone casting to a smart TV or Chromecast) is also referred to as smart TV projection. As of now, there are no details to provide.

In addition, McClure shows us the way to use AI to create widget feeds. In a short demonstration, he shows us that he is able to conduct “checkups” (cares for other business affairs while researching and performing business tasks) without disturbing his workflow.

Microsoft Windows games on Windows 11

Microsoft Windows games on Windows 11
Image Credits: Microsoft

Several new gaming-related features are currently in development for Windows 11, including features for game creator Sarah Bond.

  • HDR—an Xbox One-only feature that, among other things, improves lighting and colour saturation in games. Auto HDR was shown off in a live left/right split display, and the effect strongly resembles the mobile application adjustment filters.
  • DirectStorage—This Xbox feature enables game assets to stream directly to the GPU, which results in a significant reduction in CPU use.
  • Xbox Game Pass—this subscription service gives subscribers access to a wide variety of games, including first-day releases from independent game studios like EA and Bethesda as well as AAA development studios like EA Games and Bethesda Game Studios.

Incorporating cross-play across devices supports a community of millions of players, who are seamlessly playing supported games across devices. It can include saving the game on one platform, then continuing from where you left off on another.

Valve’s Steam platform looks to be getting the same treatment as its predecessors in the form of a straight purchase within the Xbox app.

The Microsoft Store has seen significant improvements—now including Android apps

Microsoft Windows games on Windows 11

Microsoft Store director Panay claims that the Windows 11 updated Microsoft Store is a “rebuilt from the ground up” version that is especially useful for developers to sell apps, Web Apps, and Universal Web Platform apps simultaneously.

The new store terms Microsoft is offering to developers, Panay points out, offer industry-leading revenue shares. This sparked speculations about the ability to “bring your own commerce engine” —though there were no details on how this integrates with the Store. In his closing statement, he hinted that it was possible for developers to use their own commerce engines. While this wouldn’t require sharing any of the profits with Microsoft, they would, however, have to give the Microsoft Store source code access.

The store’s biggest news is that it’s now giving Android app access. Intel bridge technology was responsible for the Android environment’s capabilities, which included showing off several apps (including TikTok) on phone-shaped and tablet-shaped windows.

There are Android apps found in the Microsoft Store using the Amazon app store to find them. That accessibility was shown with a mobile app store that appeared to be similar to the Fire HD version, but reskinned for Windows 11.

There will be a 3 p.m. EDT “deep dive” event for developers who are interested in the app store updates.

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