Satya Nadella teases major updates coming soon to Windows during Build 2021 keynote

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

What you need to know

  • Satya Nadella teases the "next generation of Windows" is in the works.
  • It will be "one of the most significant updates to Windows of the past decade."
  • Microsoft will have more to share "soon."

Microsoft has remained incredibly tight-lipped around its plans for Windows this year. We've known for some time that the company plans to ship a significant UX overhaul for Windows this fall under the codename Sun Valley, and that Microsoft is planning to hold a dedicated Windows event sometime in the next few weeks to talk about it.

Because of this, the company has opted to not talk much about Windows at Build 2021, but that hasn't stopped Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella from teasing that something big is in the works during his opening keynote, calling the project "one of the most significant updates to Windows [in] the past decade."

Here's the full quote from Satya Nadella:

Across all the opportunities I've highlighted today, Windows is implicit. It's never been more important. Windows 10 is used by more than 1.3 billion people to work, learn, connect and play. And it all starts with Windows as a dev box. Windows brings together all developer and collaboration tools in one place. It lets you choose the hardware you want, works with Linux and Windows as one, and has a modern terminal.And soon we will share one of the most significant updates to Windows of the past decade to unlock greater economic opportunity for developers and creators. I've been selfhosting it over the past several months, and I'm incredibly excited about the next generation of Windows. Our promise to you is this: we will create more opportunity for every Windows developer today and welcome every creator who is looking for the most innovative, new, open platform to build and distribute and monetize applications. We look forward to sharing more very soon.

I find it remarkably interesting that Nadella, just like Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay, refers to this update as the "next generation of Windows" and not simply "Windows 10." Perhaps Microsoft is hinting that this big update won't be called Windows 10 when it ships? Windows 11? It would certainly be justified if it did.

Microsoft is rumored to be holding a dedicated Windows event in the next handful of weeks, possibly in June, where it will unveil this next generation of Windows along with a new user interface and feature set. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the rumors around Sun Valley and the next generation of Windows? 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.

  • It's about time!
  • If Apple proved one thing, they proved that you hold your cards close and only announce things when they're a reality.
  • They proved a 2nd thing. When you release a MAJOR OS upgrade -- finish most of it upon initial release.
  • Never used MacOS but heard about that in every comparison video/article.
  • I mean, let's be honest: Microsoft proved this too with the Windows 10X and Surface Neo duds.
  • You're assuming they're duds because they didn't get released. Surface Neo is obviously a hard sell in a pandemic. Microsoft have always struggled to sell a modern platform without the expected Win32 apps. Which are precisely the apps that mean Windows isn't modern.
  • I guess you haven’t seen laptop sales the past year. Sales have skyrocketed, especially for Macs and Chromebooks.
  • Something in the works that eventually did not get even released sounds definitely duds to me.
  • Lol. AirPower laughing at you
  • Oh give it a rest. There's no windows 11. But I'm excited for the update
  • Kinda dumb to keep calling it 10
  • Google what Software As A Service means.
  • Sass comes with a version number sometimes with a name.
  • How about Windows 10 21H2?
  • Well it's just a marketing name. Not too much of a big deal. Though yeah, maybe it would be worth it to call something Windows 11 or something cooler
  • That makes it a bigger update than Windows 8 to Windows 10... If what he says is true.
  • Why does it?
  • I kinda doubt it, not just due to visual change but what's actual new features is being introduced. Windows 8 dint just introduced new design, but also new apps (or rewritten apps) and features alongside with it.
  • Windows 8 to Windows 10 was also in the past decade... but all Satya said of the coming change was that it was "ONE OF the most significant updates to Windows of the past decade." If it was more significant than the Win10 release, he'd have said so. Which suggests it's less significant, and that basically makes the quote meaningless, imo, given that most updates since Win10's release have been marginal.
  • Okay, Zac and the others keep pushing this "new name for Windows" thing, but this quote gave it away for me:
    > Perhaps Microsoft is hinting that this big update won't be called Windows 10 when it ships? It would certainly be justified if it did.
    (wink wink) I'm pretty sure you have some inside information regarding this, but you don't want to burn the source by saying it outright that you know it's not going to be Windows 10. Also, let me speculate: might it be that when they were developing W10X, they found out that they could just as easily remove some features from the current Windows 10 as they could build the new OS from "scratch" (read: bring over only code that's needed)? This would mean the "new", rebranded Windows 10 could fill the gap that W10X was trying to fill. So, make Windows 10 more lightweight, maybe an alternative version, release that, test the waters, then announce the next gen Surface Duo and Surface Neo both with new Qualcomm ARM CPUs, with two variants each: one with Android, one with the New Windows?
  • "I'm pretty sure you have some inside information regarding this" I'll take the other side of that bet. I agree with your last paragraph though. I'm keenly interested in what they're cooking up because a true hybrid device - touch-and-pen mobile and desktop/laptop workstation in one - is still a unicorn. It's apparently like self-driving cars: a lot harder to do than you'd think.
  • Perhaps our friends here know something about a new name? For my purposes I just want Windows software to be well married to Surface hardware. That is what I expect from Panay being in charge
  • I thought it was just a design overhaul with rounded edges and new icons. Not thrilled about the rounded edges, I actually like W10's blocky design. Don't understand why people think W10 looks less "modern" when MacOS has gradients and skeuomorphism straight out of 2005. The only thing that's really left to modernize about W10 is the legacy control panel and various admin tools that are still hanging around.
  • Quite literally the only complaint I've heard about Windows' modernity is that the new modern applications offer nowhere near the feature parity of technology and user experience that is now nearly 20 years old from previous Windows releases and still widely used to this day. The Settings app isn't a goal to move towards to in relation to Control Panel, it's case study in precisely what to avoid in software design and development. Consequently, the only complaint I hear about so called "legacy" applications is that Microsoft purposefully let their UI foundation technologies bitrot in a failed attempt to incentivize Metro/UWP adoption, resulting in paper cuts such as still-poor hidpi widget support in 2021. Not to mention the mishmash nature of having these still-useful applications installed side-by-side with failed mobile touch-first applications that literally no one ever will use and every windows blogger trying to gaslight you into believing that such failed technology is somehow the future of Windows because that's presumably what their Microsoft PR rep told them to say. No judgement, they gotta eat, and it's always useful to know how loud the MS ecochamber is before they introduce things publicly. It was mildly amusing back in 2012 that Microsoft thought it could revolutionize the world by attempting to leverage the user base of Windows to make "modern" design and tablet Windows a thing, but now it's just annoying and sad.
  • I don't know, I use W10 as a tablet OS frequently on a Surface Pro and while it isn't perfect, it isn't as bad as people make it out to be. I would rather have something like the Settings app and touch-friendly UI design than a return to the legacy crud. They need to move Device Manager, Registry Editor, etc to match the design language of W10 (or whatever it will be called). And basically adapt all of the functionality you mention to the new design.
  • > It was mildly amusing back in 2012 that Microsoft thought it could revolutionize the world by attempting to leverage the user base of Windows to make "modern" design and tablet Windows a thing, but now it's just annoying and sad. I can't blame them this much for Windows 8. It was a first attempt. There were definitely going to be problems. the UI design is really bad. It was, no matter what, going to be flawed though.
  • Oh I can. From their very first public preview build, absolutely no one wanted anything to do with Metro and it just went downhill from there as they started removing things like the Start button. The user hostile antagonization continued as in 8, it presented the desktop as a legacy "app", despite the fact that no one ever would go on to use Metro apps at all. It was a failure before it was released, and every iteration of their attempt in this initiative has been a total failure. It could have been avoided if they actually listened to user feedback that was critical and incompatible with their internal echo chamber. They feigned listening to user feedback during 10's launch, but it was a reroll in an attempt to fool people into thinking that UWP would ever be accepted. It failed too, and a decade on from the first iterations of Microsoft's mental illness, here we are.
  • I remember that rhetoric. "Desktop is just another app." ?!?!? Weird. The Metro apps have come a long way. To some degree, I don't think it is even about the design. It is whether Microsoft really wants to be a consumer product. There is part of Microsoft that just wants to Windows to be the Office operating system. Then there is another faction that wants to be more of a consumer product. I think the Metro apps could be good. The design has to be right and there needs to be functionality regarding the Microsoft Store. It's kind of weird they have a music app and they don't sell music. Because again, there is an internal faction that says "Lets just buy Spotify." And that doesn't end up going anywhere.
  • I think that's a pretty clear outlook on the state of Microsoft's troubles. At some point a faction arose that fooled management into believing they could be the next iPad and every initiative since has failed. How such a faction has survived after 9 years of total and complete failure is beyond me, especially in a public company that answers to shareholders. How do those conversations even go? "Ok, we know that absolutely no one ever, anywhere, in any timeline has adopted Metro/UWP so far, but we have this one tweak we think will make people flock to it" followed by "OMFBG, that's the key, let's pour all resources into that for sure" while the Office team looks on in disgust and the Visual Studio team rolls their eyes for the umpteen time?
  • It'll be windows as a service works on any device that your useing now
  • They've used the term "next generation of Windows" before and it's always meant something big.
  • It would be pointless and confusing to change the name from Windows 10. It would break Microsoft's initial pledge that this is the last version of Windows, and would imply the update isn't free, that it breaks some compatibility, that it requires new devices, and all applications and peripherals would need to reflect another version of Windows. A facelift is not a re-writing of the operating system. This website is hell bent on suggesting that Microsoft change the name of Windows. There is no point.
  • I understand a lot of the professionals and businesses needing/wanting the legacy support, however I still think they should have at least offered those who want to: an option to buy a lean, modern, more secure CoreOS Windows (10X) without the legacy stuff, even if it meant buying a new device too. The business/pro version of "next generation of Windows" simply being "Windows10 Sun Valley"...
    While the consumer/education variant being "10X". Over time the CoreOS would get performance/containerization/emulation/virtualization/stream technology improvements and modules, so that it eventually can fully replace Windows10 many years down the line. As for the name I don't care how it's called, just preferably not something confusing for consumers, businesses, sales and support.
  • I would love to see an update that consolidates on the information I need to get to. I want only one control panel to rule them all. And from that one control panel I can get to everything else under the hood. I don't want three different ways to do things anymore. One easy to follow way how to change something. If I know the key word, let me still type that in and take me straight there, otherwise make it one place to go to and do anything.
  • I'm disappointed about this Build. I hoping more information about this new Windows. as Mac user, i really like the direction Microsoft took since nadella is here.
    I'm using Windows every day and sometimes i think there are better tips than mac OS.
    I'm an insider and regarding the next Sun Valley, i'm very worried and this update. I think it will not be as revolutionnary that nadella tell it.
    There are few new icons but that's all, for the moment (i think they're awful). @Daniel, have you already seen any sceenshot of sunvalley ??
    I think we'll know more about it after WWDC.
    Sorry for my english, I'm French :D
  • Microsoft should sunset their existing Windows ecosystem, open source Win32 and port it to Linux, then release Windows as a full Linux distribution. They could also release their own installation packages for their own software (MS Office for Linux) which would instantly become the most widely used packages that all other distributions would have to support. MS needs to get out of the legacy software game. The future is in services anyway.
  • I like this idea. And it isn't completely out of the question considering how much MS has embraced Linux and open source.
  • "MS needs to get out of the legacy software game. " I agree with this. Windows is the very definition of "legacy software". Windows needs to go into permanent maintenance mode. No "major updates". No more twice yearly updates that no one wants or needs. Just security updates, which will keep a small team of Windows software engineers busy for MANY years to come. Everyone else will gladly move to Azure or Teams or Office or whatever on Linux/Android/iOS. IOW, products that have an actual future.
  • @naddy6969 who seriously stole the jam out of your donut?
    Sheesh, going round stating your opinion as a fact.
  • If it still has to support 10+ year old software, it is a failure. Microsoft needs to move beyond Windows. It’s future is limited.
  • All of your opinions are terrible.
  • You want Windows to stay the same? To continue to lose mainstream users until it is no longer relevant? Microsoft needs to cut legacy off at some point. They can’t keep pulling all this garbage and bloat forward. They should release the new Windows. Make it as simple as possible, very similar to Windows 7. Stop all development. Just work on security updates and nothing else, not even apps or services. Release something new. Don’t call it Windows. Put all development into it and keep at it. It will likely take years, but keep developing and improving it. Eventually it will catch on. It has taken Google 10 years to make ChromeOS serious. Microsoft needs that kind of commitment. Something will replace Windows, Microsoft at least needs a horse in the race.
  • 10+ year old software? That is NEW software in Windows land. What about 40 year old DOS stuff? 32 bit Windows 10 STILL supports this crap. Windows is all about legacy software support. "It’s future is limited." Windows - in its current state - has no future. "Limited" is putting it nicely.
  • Windows 8 was also a "major update". How did that work out? Of course, it totally failed. Because the main users of Windows these days - businesses - are not interested in "major updates". For obvious reasons. Which also explains why 10X is dead. No business needs "Windows" that can't run 30 year old Win32 apps.
  • Gonna be another nothingburger from Nadellasoft.
  • The changes are very clearly aimed at developers. Nadella literally said so. Those expecting a massive UX overhaul should brace yourself for massive disappointment unless new icons are your thing.
  • Build is for developers, so of course that's going to be his focus there. If it was for end users, his comments would reflect that too.
  • Purely from a marketing point of view, I can understand why Microsoft *could* call this Windows 11. Question is, is it necessary? No. Microsoft already had Windows 10X in the works. It is easy to imagine this was Windows 10.X. So, something like Windows 10.5 aka Windows Sun Valley (Apple naming convention) *would* make far more sense. We all know Panos is hellbent on reproducing the Apple 'magic' after all. This in turn confirms Windows 10 is the last version of Windows. In the meantime Windows 10 lives on until Windows 7 is gone and Windows 8 is out of support. Then move over to CloudOS, or whatever is going to "replace" Windows. And let's face it, Windows Sun Valley sounds more exciting than just another version of Windows named Windows 11.
  • I wish they would fix W10 in its current state first. There's no reason why I should still be using the legacy Control Panel to adjust half my settings in 2021. Rediculous.
  • Please MS no more redesigns, no more icons, no more round or square corner dilemmas! Please concentrate on the whole of the interface -- make it consistent, fix remaining bugs (way too many), and add basic functionality for 2021 like better management for: fonts, system colour tables, files, monitors, VPN control, networking control, etc. Stop applying your minds/efforts to the low hanging fruit and saying, "wow, look isn't it pretty!"... consistency is the key if you want it to look better, if you want it to function better fix the darn bugs and if you want to make it more useable beef up and streamline the present basic functionality.
  • So, if this is Sun Valley it's going to be a bit oversold. If it's not and Sun Valley is just the visual part, I have no idea what it is.
  • I don't know, he once said also that Windows would have stayed in the mobile sector with its own proud attitude towards innovation and its unique features like continuum ...
    Here we have even the announcement of an announcement :)
  • Continuum wasn’t unique. It had been done before on Android, like the Motorola Atrix.
  • @bleached, WebTop was still clunky and no where near holding the promise of Continuum. The latter had apps (granted they were not many) that auto-adjusted whereas Webtop apps really didn't. Also it didn't have the advantage of Miracast either whereas Continuum did.
  • coming soon..... until it isn't. the announcement of the announcement... that's priceless.
  • $5 says it'll include Linux somehow someway.
  • No one is going to take that bet, because WSL exists so that would just be printing money for you
  • Just give me the Duo 2 .... in Australia.
  • Excited for this - Windows 10 has looked very uninspired almost since launch. Big improvement over Windows 8, but hasn't progressed fast enough in the last 3-4 years. Some of the design looks like it's been done by developers rather than real designers. This along with the Linux support for developers shows they are listening and understand what their users want. I like to use various OS's, but have really gone off macOS since Big Sur - don't like the new design at all, a real step backwards in places. It's all up for grabs with this next version of Windows as far as I'm concerned.
  • Nadella has to say all this because he is the CEO, or because Windows is making money for Microsoft (for the time being). Otherwise, he has no interest whatsoever in Windows.
  • Vista was amazing. A little broken, yes, but the UX was beyond everything that came before. Win7 fixed all the little things that Vista broke and made Windows... loved by its users. The Earth was full and round. Then came 8 and 10... and the Earth was now flat. People only use Windows 10 because it's Windows and it's supported, and that's where the Windows programs run. But the Earth is still flat and few love it. Most maybe don't even like it. (You know, whenever I see "Sun Valley" now I think of "Big Sur" ...just sayin'.) Maybe this "next gen" of Windows will be something its users can love again. But that will require users loving Microsoft [again?]. That's a hard sell. All they really need to do is forget about the "10" and move on. The UX is far less important than having a stable, secure system. Do they really want to be revolutionary? Just make Windows free and leave it at that. (And stop putting people in jail for trying to save the planet.)
  • Windows 10 is a very stable and secure OS.
  • LOL. Good one.
  • All your data are belong to us!