On June 24, 2021, Microsoft unveiled Windows 11, its brand new operating system, which had been leaked over a week prior. With the new OS, Microsoft hopes to create the most open, accessible Windows yet.
Even from the leaks, it was clear Windows 11 planned to shake up the Windows formula in big ways. New productivity tools, a fresh Start menu, and loads more helped differentiate it from its predecessors. Windows Central spoke to experts to learn just how much the new operating system is set to change the game for Microsoft.
Windows 11: Why it matters
"Ideally, the user interface should add to user productivity and experience," Forrester's Principal Analyst J. P. Gownder said when asked what Windows 11's biggest advantage over Windows 10 was. "Better snap windows, integrated Teams experience, and improved dictation/voice/pen. Those will be the biggest immediate benefits for users."
"Microsoft has created a marketing moment and a rallying point for the PC ecosystem."
Steve Kleynhans, the Vice President of Digital Workplace Infrastructure and Operations at Gartner, had a different take on the difference between Windows 10 and 11. While he acknowledged Windows 11 can be considered "new and flashy" from a consumer perspective, he pointed out how businesses and IT organizations will likely see it as more of the same. He posited that Windows 11 was, in some capacity, a marketing move.
"That isn't to say it doesn't have some important technical enhancements, but it probably could have been released as just-another-feature-update for Windows 10," Kleynhans said. "However, by renaming the product, Microsoft has created a marketing moment and a rallying point for the PC ecosystem. It has also provided an opportunity to reset the baseline for what is expected in hardware. This is important as the move to the Windows-as-a-Service model with Windows 10 didn't really make that easy."
Windows 11: Panos predictions
When asked about where Microsoft's Panos Panay may be taking Windows, Gownder had a strategic prediction. "I think Panos will take Windows into a more cloud-infused, user-centric direction that melds PC experiences with mixed reality, the power of the Azure cloud, and more automation (like Power Apps)," he said. "This would be a productive future direction for users and for Microsoft as well."
Both he and Kleynhans felt Panos' delivery at the Windows 11 reveal was similar to how the Microsoft executive ran his Surface events. Kleynhans expressed that this style injected a consumer-friendly, personal touch into Microsoft's approach for spreading the message of Windows 11.
Some felt the Windows 11 event had a bit of an Apple-esque tone to it, but perhaps that's just a side effect of the pivot in marketing style. Whether it is indicative of any long-term, sweeping changes in product strategy remains to be seen.
Windows 11: Is there hope for Android on Windows?
On the topic of sweeping changes in strategy, Android apps being welcomed onto the Microsoft Store can't be overlooked. But there doesn't seem to be an overwhelming sense of confidence from analysts that this move is a slam dunk on Microsoft's part.
When asked about whether there's any indication that Microsoft will avoid the pitfalls that have typically befallen Android apps that wind up on non-Android devices, Tom Mainelli, IDC's Group Vice President of Devices & Consumer Research, shared an optimistic but realistic perspective on the matter.
"Android applications are mostly a checkmark."
"This is a difficult question to answer at present, and we'll have to see how the initial rollout of Amazon's App Store on Windows plays out," Mainelli said. "But Microsoft is playing a long game here, and it sounds as if both Microsoft and Amazon are quite focused on making this work."
On the flip side of that, Kleynhans had a slightly more concrete expectation for what's to come. "I'm not convinced Microsoft cares that much," he said. "Android applications are mostly a checkmark. The ultimate goal is to get developers to build something native for Windows, whether that is a Win32 app, a UWP, a PWA, a Linux app, or now an Android app. Microsoft just wants Windows to be the platform that can run anything."
Windows 11: What happened to Windows 10 forever?
One can't forget the slight bit of mixed messaging Microsoft allowed to permeate the Windows 10 name, with its widely assumed status as the "forever operating system" lingering in the public consciousness until June 24, when Windows 11 officially put the nail in the coffin of that idea.
Mainelli felt Windows 11 has proven a big enough update to not only give an excuse for abandoning the Windows 10 name but a full-on reason. "Microsoft's thinking around Windows has evolved dramatically since those comments were made years ago," he said, referring to Microsoft's old but still famous comments. "This is a major update to Windows itself, as well as to Microsoft's strategy around making it a platform upon which other platforms can prosper. I think the update that Microsoft unveiled today is worthy of being more than a point update to Windows 10."
Gownder had similar thoughts that overlapped a bit with both Mainelli's and Kleynhans.
"I would have to guess there are a few reasons," Gownder said, in response to the question of why Windows 10 lost its status as the forever OS. "One, a major interface refresh offered an opportunity for branding the experience. Related, though this might be coincidental, the rise of hybrid work means there's an opportunity to position it as ready for the new world of work after COVID. Finally, Windows 11 might not work on all specs of Windows 10 devices, so they get to move the ecosystem forward a bit in terms of minimum performance of hardware."
Windows 11: It's here, and that's that
The jury's still out on whether Windows 11's existence is actually earth-shattering or just a new coat of paint for Microsoft's favorite old car. The company's June 24 event undoubtedly brought some surprises and interesting developments, but whether any of that will ultimately translate to an OS people recognize as noticeably different from Windows 10, or worthwhile in its own right, is anyone's guess.
For all the Windows 11 news you can handle, keep an eye on Windows Central.