Windows 11, the latest version of Microsoft’s computer operating system, launches worldwide on Tuesday as a free upgrade for Windows 10 users.
According to Windows chief product officer Panos Panay, the latest version was designed to be “clean, fresh, and simpler” for the user.
He assured people that the new operating system would not be a “extreme departure” from what they were used to.
Even the least tech-savvy users can easily upgrade, he adds.
“I use my father’s frame – he’s 89,” Mr Panay explained. “You have no idea how excited I am for him to press that button and upgrade.
“Not because he’s my father; I just want it to be simple for him.”
He stated that expert users had already extensively tested it through Windows’ Insider trial programme and that he was confident there would be no teething problems, adding that the upgrade is “ready now.”
Windows 11 features significant design changes as well as changes to how the system operates under the hood.
By default, the Start menu and taskbar icons are centred on the screen. When pressed, the Start button displays a list of frequently used apps.
It resembles the appearance of a smartphone app menu or launcher in some ways. Microsoft has also removed the “tiles” from the Windows 10 start menu.
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Mr Panay said the team had learned from Windows 8, which got rid of the start menu entirely, upsetting many users.
“You learn from that, of course, and then you adapt,” he said.
Creating the interface for Windows 11 required him to observe how people use their computers – “what they want to click on, where their eyes are on the machine when they come into our labs,” he explained.
“You get this confidence from history,” he added.
For Windows 11, click here “There’s a Start button right there. It’s in the centre of the screen. It has not vanished.”
When Windows 10 came out, Microsoft declared it would be the “last version” of the system. That has obviously changed.
“We’re in a time where there is a bit of a new era for the PC happening right now,” Mr Panay said.
“I believe Windows 11 stamps that moment and acts as a signal for that moment.”
The design of the operating system favours rounded corners and has simplified most menus and folder views. There are also new and improved options for organising windows and “snapping” them into grids.
Widgets, a major selling point of Windows Vista in 2007, return as well, but instead of “floating” on the screen where the user places them, they live in a sidebar on the left and are also linked to Microsoft services.
Some modifications go beyond the interface and design.
System integrations for Microsoft Teams (which will replace Skype) and the Xbox app are prominently featured in Microsoft’s advertising.
The Microsoft Store, the Windows version of an app store, has been completely redesigned and will now allow third-party apps to sell without taking a significant cut.
One new feature that raised eyebrows in the technology world was Windows 11’s ability to run Android smartphone apps via the Amazon app store.
Early adopters have reported that the new version’s in-built search function is significantly faster on most devices – but that it also prefers Microsoft’s own services, Bing and the Edge browser, when delivering web results.
For gamers, Microsoft promises that its new drive technology, Direct Storage, will result in much faster game loading times by allowing a graphics card to access storage drives without passing through the central processor.
However, this feature, like others, requires newer hardware to function.
As a result, not every computer will reap all of the benefits of upgrading, and some machines may be unable to upgrade at all.
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The minimum requirements include a type of security chip known as a TPM, which is only found on modern computers.
“If your device does not meet these requirements, you may be unable to install Windows 11 on it and should consider purchasing a new PC,” Microsoft says.
To coincide with the new Windows version, the company has just released a slew of new hardware devices.
However, users who already have Windows 10 do not need to incur this expense if their computer is still operational. Windows 10 will be supported and updated with security patches until October 2025.