So Windows 11 is here. Leaked a week ago, but officially revealed by Microsoft today at its ‘What’s Next for Windows’ and offered to try out (an early build, of course) as early as next week.
Despite previously stating that Windows 10 would be ‘the last version of Windows’, Microsoft has decided to launch a new version: Windows 11. (No-one will ever know what happened to Windows 9.)
It is, or certainly appears to be, the culmination of Microsoft’s long-running ‘Sun Valley’ project, with the new features previously expected in Windows 10’s late 2021 feature update rocking up as Windows 11 instead.
The question is: is there really enough here to justify the change in version number? Based on what I saw at the launch event, the answer is an unequivocal no.
Let’s start with the user interface tweaks, undoubtedly the most-eye catching difference between Windows 10 and Windows 11. Microsoft has redesigned the taskbar, complete with centrally positioned icons and a brand new Start Menu. The latter has deeper integration with Microsoft 365, as well as the age-old ability to pin favourite apps.
Anyone who follows Windows news will know these well: they look just like those in Windows 10X, Microsoft’s now-cancelled Windows 10 spin-off aimed at portable devices.
It is, admittedly, a big departure from the current Windows 10 UI, which has remained largely unchanged for the last six years. This means there\’s a bit of a a learning curve to Windows 11, which goes against Microsoft\’s key aim of familiarity. Will it ultimately be more intuitive once everyone is used to it? Only time will tell.
If the jury’s still out on design, it looks like Microsoft is on to a winner with the new multitasking features. Snap Layouts offers more flexibility when it comes to having multiple windows open at the same time, and Snap Groups allows you to instantly launch them together. There will also be deeper customisation options for virtual desktops, a hugely underused feature in Windows 10.
But surely these could have been all rolled out in a Windows 10 update?
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If you disagree and think Windows 11 makes complete sense as a new version number, but can\’t upgrade your existing laptop or PC, the other option is to buy a new PC with Windows 11 on it – many of the most popular brands are likely to launch new hardware soon. Microsoft has also said that you’ll get a free upgrade option if you buy a Windows 10 device right now.
Ultimately, does Windows 11 do enough to be described as \’the next generation of Windows\’? In my view, it\’s an unequivocal \’no\’.
Learn more about the new operating system in our full guide to Windows 11.