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Why it's time Microsoft made a Windows 11

Windows Sun Valley mock
Windows Sun Valley mock (Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 10 Start Logo Hero

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

2021 is a big year for Windows. Even without Windows 10X, Microsoft has a lot of plans for the Windows platform thanks to Sun Valley and its renewed interest in bringing OS innovation to market. Microsoft told us last year that it would be reinvesting in the Windows platform in 2021, and it is now almost time to see the result of that reinvestment.

We know Microsoft is planning to hold a dedicated Windows event soon, likely within the next handful of weeks. This event will be Microsoft's chance to prove to the world that it's still serious about Windows by unveiling its new Windows user experience (UX) and features that are designed to make using Windows better on PCs and tablets.

Unveiling a new Windows UX and feature set is all well and good, but you know what would really set the market on fire? A new version of Windows. A successor to Windows 10, if you will. I think it's time for Windows 11. I know it sounds crazy, but based on everything that's happening this year, I think it would make sense if it happened. Hear me out.

Sun Valley is happening

Microsoft is already working on a significant Windows UX overhaul. The Sun Valley effort aims to reinvigorate the Windows Desktop with new shell features, sounds, animations, and app designs. Why not use this as an opportunity to headline a new version of Windows?

I've had the chance to peek at some of what Microsoft is working on with Sun Valley a handful of times, and I personally think the features and changes they're planning to ship warrant a new version of Windows on their own. Microsoft is essentially bringing modified versions of some parts of the Windows 10X interface over to desktop, along with some new UX things too.

If you've used or even seen Windows 10X, you'll know that it's quite the departure from Windows 10 and was announced as a new release of the OS. As Sun Valley's UX follows a similar path, I think it would make sense for it to ship as a "Windows 11" thing.

If Microsoft did do this, I think it'd also have to make Windows 11 a free upgrade for Windows 10 users, just like how Windows 10 was a free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. It could even show up as feature update in Windows Update, just like existing Windows 10 feature updates do. It would be seamless, and offering a new version of Windows for free is good PR.

Implies a fresh start

Windows 10X Mock Laptop Dark

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

There's no doubt that Windows 10 is a great operating system, but doing a Windows 11 would imply that Microsoft is starting fresh. All the bad of yester-Windows is in the rearview mirror; Windows 11 is here, and it rights all the wrongs of Windows 10. Of course, the reality of the situation would be less drastic. Windows 11 would basically be Windows 10 with a new UX on top, but that's more than enough for most end-users. This has worked for Apple with the introduction of macOS 11, so I don't see why it couldn't work for Windows too.

It also gives Microsoft a chance to remove features that haven't worked well without it coming across as a "failure." Features like Timeline, My People, and Live Tiles could be removed or replaced with better alternatives on Windows 11, and most people wouldn't notice that Microsoft is actually backtracking on a few things.

Easily generates hype

Panos Panay

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

If Microsoft wants the world to know Windows is back, it needs to generate a lot of hype. Holding a dedicated Windows event is a good way to do this, but announcing a new version of Windows at said event would be the biggest Microsoft announcement of the year, and possibly the biggest Windows related news in the last half decade.

It would also give Microsoft an opportunity to kick off a new marketing campaign that highlights the fact that there is a new version of Windows in town. OEMs would be able to sell PCs with the added benefit that it comes with "Windows 11" out of the box, which could be a viable selling point for a lot of people this holiday and into 2022.

The secrecy is back

Windows 8 Start Screen

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft has significantly upped the level of security and secrecy around the work it's doing on Sun Valley. The internal selfhost builds are watermarked with warnings that say to not take screenshots, and testers are being instructed to not show their desktops to anyone outside the project.

The Windows org hasn't seen this level of secrecy around a release of Windows since the Windows 8 days, back when Steven Sinofsky was in charge. Microsoft had a heightened level of security around early Windows 8 dev in an effort to stop the Start screen experience from leaking before announcement. I'm witnessing a very similar thing happening with Sun Valley right now.

All this just tells me that the stuff Microsoft is working on is significant enough to warrant a new version of Windows if Microsoft really wanted to brand it as such.

Chance for a new logo

Windows 11 Mock Logo Wc

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Windows 10 logo has been with us for a number of years, and the current Windows flag has been with us for almost 10 years. Doing a Windows 11 would give Microsoft a chance to refresh the branding around Windows, updating it to match the rest of Microsoft's Fluent Design System and modern iconography.

I know Microsoft has been kicking around the idea of using the Microsoft logo in place of the Windows flag for some time as it was one of the things they originally considered for Windows 10X. It would still be called Windows, but changing the logo would allow Microsoft to align it with the rest of Microsoft's major product portfolio. Surface already uses the Microsoft logo, for example.

But Microsoft said …

Myerson Windows 10

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

I know Microsoft said Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows, but that was said under old leadership that is now long gone. Microsoft was stupid for saying "Windows 10 is the last version of Windows" back when it did because it backs the company into a corner that is unnecessary for it to be in. You should never say never.

Microsoft would have to go back on their word, but I think it would be worth it as the impact of a new version of Windows with a new UX and new features coming to market is huge. Plus, if they made it a free update for Windows 10 users, that's even more positive press generated for basically no effort on Microsoft's part.

Besides, if Microsoft really wanted to, it could ship the Windows 11 release as another Windows 10 feature update. Instead of this fall's update being called the Windows 10 October Update, it would just be called Windows 11. This is exactly how Apple and Google operating systems handle major new releases.

Heck, if Microsoft returns to one major feature update a year (or maybe ever couple of years,) the next big release release of Windows could be called Windows 12! That's assuming Microsoft has more big updates planned beyond Sun Valley of course. A simple way to think of this would be as a change in how Microsoft names Windows 10 feature updates.

We'll have to see

Regardless of how Microsoft decides to announce and ship Sun Valley, I think Microsoft's number one goal for Windows in 2021 should be to generate hype and convince the world that Windows is still relevant. I think the easiest way to do that is by announcing a Windows 11, but delivering Sun Valley as another version of Windows 10 would work too.

Word on the rumor mill is that Microsoft's dedicated Windows event will be held sometime in June. I would suspect that Windows Insiders will be able to start testing Sun Valley bits in that timeframe too, as I know the company is waiting to announce all the new stuff on stage before it's put into public testing, just like in the old Windows days.

Also, to be clear, I'm using "Windows 11" as an example as it sells the point I'm trying to make. I'm not specifically suggesting it should be called Windows 11, as anything would work. It just needs to signify that it isn't Windows 10 anymore. I know people think they should drop the 10 and just call it "Windows," but I think it makes more sense to have an identifying factor in the name.

Either way, I'm excited about Windows again, and I think you should be too. Sun Valley will deliver a great new UX for all devices, including the best Windows laptops, tablets, and desktops. In the meantime, what are you hoping to see from Windows and Sun Valley this year? Let us know in the comments.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

125 Comments
  • I could see them dropping "10" and just call it Windows but nothing else
  • I can't because for support purposes saying you are "running Windows" is a damn nightmare. It's bad for searches, it's bad for tech support, it's bad for consumer and enterprise education/awareness and it's just too generic to be a viable trademark/copyright. So, no.
  • This explanation isn't correct at all. First Windows 10 relates to around 10 different versions of Windows by now, and there will be dozens more in the future so it doesn't help in anything quoted above and will be even less helpful in the future if it remains as is the current plan. So this is no worse by any meaning. And just because it is called 10 doesn't mean that all its users can report correctly that they are using Windows 10, many can't and then they can easily find the version number in the dialog just like they would do if it was called only Windows. Second Windows can be a trademark, actually it is a trademark. There is nothing generic in calling the operating system Windows. It would be a problem if you wanted to use this as a trademark for real aluminum or wooden windows that wouldn't pass.
  • "This explanation isn't correct at all."
    It is correct and the reason why Microsoft didn't go with "Windows" when naming "Windows 10" per conversations I have had with them. They're not going to call it just "Windows."
  • Then it is the correct quotation of incorrect opinion, sorry. But it doesn't make it a correct opinion.
  • That's what Microsoft might have told you, but it's still a bad explanation. Apple literally changed OS X to macOS and they seem to be doing just fine. Granted they have a different customer base, but still. Even if it's just called "Windows" it will have a version number. It's really no different than finding out what version of Windows 10 you're running for tech support. For marketing purposes, it can be referred to as the new Windows.
  • Exactly. Same with Android and Chrome OS. They already own the trademark for "Windows". If they're worried about support, they can refer to the update names (like they already do in their support articles, as do competitors do). For example, they can put "21H2" or "Sun Valley Update" or whatever consumer-friendly update name they want to give. But the OS itself should simply be called "Windows". Adding a number only makes it sound dated fast.
  • Don't be stupid. He said that it's very hard for one to "TRADEMARK" word such as "Windows" or are you blind that you can't read? it's like you going to trademark LOVE because your developing Love OS. Apple can trademark mac, Macintosh and all that. You can't be out here trying to trademark generic words like Windows, Door, Car etc
  • "It is correct ..." Certainly not the part about how Windows is too generic to be a viable trademark. Ya know, cuz it already is a trademark.
  • Except that... it isn't? Nobody has a trademark on "Windows". "Microsoft Windows"? Yes. "Windows 10"? Yes. But not "Windows". Because its to generic.
  • Except that... it is. Ooops. Here is the list of trademarks on Microsoft's website. https://query.prod.cms.rt.microsoft.com/cms/api/am/binary/RWArzw
  • "Windows" is a registered trademark
  • "Windows" , as well as variation as variation of it as "Windows server", "Windows NT" etcetera, are trademarks owned by Microsoft; even "Azure" is trademarked.
  • No, just no. For the simple reason that this is something large companies and Enterprises do not want. As they are MS's bread and butter, I'd give this (maybe) a 5% chance.
    Let these companies and Enterprises keep Windows 10 as is. Let consumers and Professionals that do want change to their OS get Sun Valley. Then, let the dust settle. See what the pros and cons of SV are and go from there. 5 years down the road, when many people are familiar with the SV UI, maybe, maybe move the Enterprise over.
  • Sorry for all the 'maybe's' :)
  • "For the simple reason that this is something large companies and Enterprises do not want"
    The majority of the life of Windows is based on version naming and it never seemed to be a problem. Even enterprise products have versioning built-in, so why is it such a problem suddenly in 2021?
  • Windows 13 is going to be a problem along with Win14 in some parts of the world. Windows 13A is just odd.
  • Nobody has a problem with iOS 13 tho.
  • I'm managing clients for a large organisation with several thousand Windows 10 clients, and I don't agree with you at all. I know, there are others of my kin that preach LTSB or what it's called now, or at the very least do all what they can to remove everything not W7 classic and so on. To lock the users into the IT departments vision of what the OS should be. Because, CONTROL. Stupid waste I say. I used to think like that. No more, it's BS. Why do this only apply to Windows? Why do windows need to be static? It's about doing management properly. We did an experiment with the release of W8. We posted a short notice on the intranet that 200 random users would get a new OS. And told them to contact us for support if they had any issues. The next week they started on Monday with 8. We heard nothing, two days later we started contacting people, and they were well at work, no problems. All we did was to make sure they saw their icons. After this we moved everyone to W8. (I actually got a Gandalf Style t-shirt from MS for being amongst the very first to deploy W8) and later W10, and we did not waste a single minute teaching anyone anything about the new OS before hand. Only gave 5 days notice. And our employees are not tech savvy. People today don't want locked down and gray. So why give them that? We don't lock down anything, we just enable the users to achieve what they need. Guess what, the helpdesk statistics shows we have less klient related issues today than we had with W7.
  • Hear hear! I am the IT manager at our company with hundreds of laptops and I push the same vision. Users these days are not dumb and are usually interested in learning digital skills, especially after the pandemic. Also Windows doesn’t break anymore when u move a wrong folder. We also don’t limit internet usage or streaming on the internal network, because otherwise they sit on their phone all say long and people are working more from home so bandwith is no issue at all. I hate those control obsessed IT dinosaurs
  • Coughstatefarmcough IT dinosaurs
  • I'd personally like to drop the number game and do letters like back in XP / NT days. (Obviously with its own acronym). But that's my 2 cents.
  • Drop the numbers. Windows Washington-State-Landmark-Name. Windows Redmond or Windows Columbia
  • Good luck having consumers understand which version is new and which one is old when it is not based on a logically ascending structure. Even macOS is based on a numerical system, the mountain names are nicknames that follow e.g. macOS 10.15 Catalina is it's actual name.
  • Like Windows NT, Windows ME, Windows XP and Windows Vista? Microsoft has done non numerical branding for Windows before. Besides, I guarantee the vast majority of Mac users don't know they're running macOS 10.15 Catalina, but they know they're running macOS. It's no different than just calling it Windows and having a numerical versioning. They could even go the Apple route and have a code name used as the version name. Windows Sun Valley version xxx, but with the branding of the OS as Windows instead of Windows 10.
  • That they did it before doesn't mean it wasn't bad. They also did the proper sequential versioning before with Windows 1, 2, 3.x, 7, 8, 8.1, and 10 itself. So why is that even an argument?
  • Because he made the argument and I offered a rebuttal. macOS and ChromeOS are also relevant examples.
  • Technically Windows 10 already followed what Mac OS X did, which is Mac OS 10 not "X". There is subversion to differentiate between Mac OS X releases, which is what Windows 10 is doing now with things like 20H1, 20H2, etc. Then Mac OS X just have a nickname based on cats, then now mountains. Windows 10 though just have more boring and generic months+year naming that sometimes don't even align and you have to refer the year or else it is confusing between last year May and this year May update. I think Windows should just follow that naming convention of Mac OS X. But use a nickname that sounds more exciting for marketing hype. This keeps the Windows being a service in nature through its naming convention. But I think just drop the 10, just use nickname after it to differentiate between releases.
  • You can have the nickname and the version number and just market the nickname.
  • How about "Windows Xtreme"? /s
  • so Windows 10X is the best name ;)
  • I was in the "drop the number" camp at first, but it really makes no sense. Having an identifyer is important. "works with Windows" won't quite cut it. But more than the versions, they need to get windows to be great on desktop and tablets and new form factors.
    I was really excited about the Neo. Totally so.
    I saw the Duo as a nice add on.
    Now I have the Duo and the Neo might never come.
    The "one more thing" became the only thing.
    I fell like that's a bit of a let down. So, call it windows 11 or whatever they like best, but for the love of all that's good, make it a universal OS.
  • The version or build number would be the identifier. "Works with Windows (build/version xxx)" is no different than "works with Windows 10 (21H1/build number)."
  • 1. They should not remove Live Tiles. They are much better than stupid static icons.
    2. About speculation "if they made it a free update for Windows 10 users". I can't even imagine they would make it a paid update. It would be nonsense.
  • Yes, MS should just remove the Start menu and make it possible to pin live tiles on the desktop! Live tiles on the desktop would be pretty sick and honestly more useful than being hidden in Start.
  • Totally agree on Live Tiles. They worked on Windows Phone, because the home screen is more akin to the Windows PC Desktop than it is to the Start Menu. I've never understood the UI design logic for not even allowing Live Tiles on the desktop, especially since MS canned the old Gadgets at about the same time. Live Tiles were the logical successor to those.
  • I find full-screen start menu with live tiles to be better. I can open the menu without closing/minimizing any apps, and all apps are active when I close it. But ofcource, if they made the desktop appear over the apps exactly like the full screen menu when you pressed the button, fine by me.
  • Not sure what you mean by remove Start menu. Hopefully you don't mean to remove the actual menu, which know what that entails with Windows 8 approach, though technically it is Start menu, just full screen. But yeah, Live Tiles pinned on desktop should happen so it will be more useful. Also make a widget as well. Its odd Microsoft is moving to opposite direction while Apple is making more emphasis with widgets and Android is finally remember it has widgets and with Android 12, they are making changes to widget system that left unchanged since first Android.
  • Live Tiles are just function-less widgets. Either greatly increase the function, or get rid of them. As they are currently, they are nothing but an annoyance with very little utility.
  • That's why it's been asked countless times to make it a widget, which should be the final form of Live Tiles. Basically, Interactive Live Tiles that was once on the Microsoft Research demo. Live Tiles not getting used due to Microsoft not really trying to make it more useful. All while Apple have been making emphasis on their widgets and Google finally did something with their widget system that was left untouched since the first release of Android. It's just up to the developers to take advantage of that new system. As much as possible, I don't want to install any 3rd-party solution just to have something similar to "Live Tiles" like Rainmeter. Yet they still don't replicate everything since Live Tiles function are coming from their host apps. Rainmeter are mostly system information and some limited support to certain apps, all requires much fiddling that most people, even some enthusaist don't have time to deal with. Sometimes Rainmeter isn't even as robust as system-level Live Tile.
  • Live Tiles are much better than static icons. It's like a static icon + some useful (or not) info. Why they should get rid of them and replace by less functional static icons? That's just stupid.
    If Microsof will make Live Tiles more functional, it will be even better.
  • Heh, live tiles were one of the first things I disable when I did a fresh install of Windows.
  • There is no reason to change the name, it will only create confusion. Every app that lists itself as compatible with Windows 10 will need to update itself, and since there is no major underlying change to Windows 10 in the future update, there will be no new compatibility or break in previous compatibility. Unless some software has been obsoleted and won't work on today's Windows 10, then it is pointless to change the branding except to satisfy a random urge to match Mac OS's version number. In addition to that the next Windows update is a free seamless update to everyone with Windows 10, and calling it Windows 11 would imply something else completely.
  • "There is no reason to change the name, it will only create confusion."
    72% of the world is on Android and I don't see mass hysteria from yearly OS upgrades with new versioning numbers, even if that update is often, technically, kind of minor. Apple iPhone users seem to be able to handle iOS 13.4 when jumping from iOS 13.3.
  • > 72% of the world is on Android and I don't see mass hysteria from yearly OS upgrades I don't know what world you are living in, but 99.9% of these Android users do not see "yearly OS upgrades".
  • Because they buy a new phone (for $150) every two years. I like the idea that my assortment of Surface Pro devices will update with new versions of Windows 10. But I also realize that hardware does improve and as much as I like my Surface GO, it is annoyingly slow to open and start using.
  • I think they should do what Apple does. Call it Windows 10 Sun Valley and then a new name for the next update
  • Why do we need new versions of Windows? It is legacy only. No need to do anymore work. It is done. Just keep it secure going forward and remove some of the useless stuff added in Windows 10 to make it more like Windows 7.
  • I agree WIndows10 is done... in that... it works and does what we need it to do. Just keep it secure... It's a good Utilitarian OS. The future is in other experiences.... Microsoft just needs to make sure they can moneterize something (software as services, services as services) on those experiences... to keep the machine going...
  • They will have a hard time keeping Office and other software relevant without a strong platform on their side. No one is buying a Chromebook or iPad to run Office. They will lose some software reach without a new platform.
  • Developers should do away with named versions and stick with numbers. Sun Valley, Leopard, XP, Vista. What do any of these mean? Nobody knows without looking it up. 1, 2, 3 4, or 20H2, 21H1, 21H2, etc are all easy to understand. This is why I hate Xbox naming scheme as well. Xbox One X, Xbox Series X, Boxing Ring Triple X Extreme. What does that mean? No idea. PS1 - PS5 is easy to understand.
    It's like a 12 year old, named XxSlayerxX is in charge of the Xbox marketing department.
  • "Microsoft was stupid for saying "Windows 10 is the last version of Windows" back when it did because it backs the company into a corner that is unnecessary for it to be in. You should never say never."
    As opposed to how necessary it is to rename 21H2 to Windows 11. :)
  • I think we all know Microsoft will rebrand away from the name “Windows” entirely.
  • Are you sure you're not the only one "knowing" this?
  • "I think we all know Microsoft will rebrand away from the name “Windows” entirely."
    I can't sign on to that and know of no one credible who believes it to the be the case.
  • We all know what happened to the Coca-Cola Company with New Coke.
  • They can keep Windows and have something new that isn’t Windows, right? Why does everything have to be Windows? That make sets a precedent that a new platform can’t meet.
  • No one is confirming about that.
  • 👍 🤘 Yes, Windows 11 is the clearest (near) future for the Windows operating system. As the amount of release versions of Windows 10 keeps piling up and differing from each others more, the new version series (Windows 11) will make it all easier also for support – including but not limited to the Microsoft support community (answers.microsoft.com).
  • Some facts in article are incorrect. Apple did not drop the OS X brand with Big Sur. It has happened several years ago and it is called just macOS since then. In Big Sur they have increased the version number from 10.15 to 11.00, but it is not something that is mentioned in any marketing material. It is rather a technical detail, not a brand change, the brand change has happened years ago.
  • Do you believe Sun Valley will be that good to even think on a new version number? I hope so. Imagine resizing a window without those black areas, gracefully maximizing a window or entering task view, animations responding to gestures. Just that would bring Win10 to 2021.
  • I think a new version would help, it'd also be easy to just name it Windows 21 and peg future releases to the year. I'm hoping that they offer a free version that is restricted to the Store and a paid version that allows traditional installation. It'd lower device costs and protect people by default. I know the Store policy is changing, but one can hope.
  • Windows 10 + Windows 10X = Windows X! (Moveover MacOS X!)
  • No, that would be more like Windows^2 10(1+x)
  • I dunno but windows central latest artciles proposals to naming are even worse than microsoft current naming. Editors like the increasing number of visitors and creates "thinking aloud" every two days. Imo this is lame.
  • Are you people corporate bootlicking morons? Who wrote this God-forsaken article? We don't need Windows 11. Windows 10 is fine. All they need to do is work on this operating system and improve it until the end of time. If you don't like a feature, you should have the ability to change it. Making brand new operating systems from the ground up just so you can get a spiffy new logo? How stupid is that? Do you even realize the amount of work it takes in creating a stable kernel? Windows 10 works fine. Stop begging for a new version of windows. You're like the dumbass people that bitched at Microsoft to make a new OS when Windows XP was around, and look what happened, they flopped out Windows 8, what an atrocity. Be HAPPY with Windows 10, I don't need a whole new operating system to purchase. Not all of us are well to do millionaires that can shell out money every time you get that itch to make us pay for some stupid service. What kind of dumb crap is that? What exactly is wrong with Windows 10? And if you crave another operating system, why not try out Ubuntu? Why make Wind