I avoided covering the rumours and so-called leaks a few weeks ago, but it turns out that Windows 11 really does exist and will begin being rolled out later this year or early next year. I was surprised to hear that Microsoft planned to release a whole new operating system so soon after Windows 10’s 2015 launch; Windows 10 was billed as the “final” version, with the prospect of updates and tweaks but no replacement. A mere six years later – or fewer, assuming that the new OS has been in development for a while – and Microsoft is ready to abandon that pledge.
Windows 10 is far from perfect. It’s an improvement over past versions of the operating system, of course, but it has its problems. For me, though, the worst thing about Windows 10 has been Microsoft’s lack of care. Bugs and issues which were reported to Microsoft more than five years ago – such as 4K displays not being able to use extra large icons – are still in the OS and it seems Microsoft just opted to ignore them.
An update to Windows has been needed for a while, not just to address some of these bugs but to give the whole OS a bit of a refresh. But does it need to be a completely new operating system? Though Windows remains dominant across the PC space, a lot of people were initially sold on the upgrade to Windows 10 based on the promise that it would be the final version of the OS. Windows 10 had a solid launch because people were keen to upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8 on that basis – something that was helped by the upgrade being free at first.
To abandon that promise so soon after making it is going to sour at least some people on Windows 11 – even more so if the new upgrade won’t be free. I can’t find any information on that, by the way, so watch this space. Windows 10 has, over the course of the last few years, come to eclipse Windows 7 and 8 as the most-used operating system around the world, and with a renewed growth in the PC market partly thanks to lockdowns and working from home, I would have argued that Windows 10 is well-placed to ensure Microsoft’s continued dominance of the PC space going forward.
Windows 10 will be Windows 11’s main competitor, at least in the first few months and even years of the new OS’ life. Apple Mac is its own walled garden, and Linux, despite some attempts to make “user-friendly” versions, is still a niche, enthusiast product. So Windows as a whole has no major competition in the PC realm – but Windows 11 will have to stand up against Windows 10, an OS with a built-in userbase that numbers in the billions.
Windows 11 will have to strike the right balance between offering improvements and changes but without being so different as to discourage users familiar with the basic Windows interface. Moving the Start button to the centre of the taskbar instead of leaving it in its familiar left-hand position is one of those dumb aesthetic things that’s likely to prove costly. Windows isn’t Mac, and shouldn’t try to imitate everything Apple does. Folks need familiarity, especially considering the prevalence of Windows in the business world, where many users aren’t as tech-savvy and just want something that they know how to use.
If Windows 11 can smooth some of the rougher edges of Windows 10, perhaps it will see success. And in the longer term, unless we get a repeat of the Vista problem followed in short order by another upgrade, I think Windows 11 will, simply by default, gradually roll out to more and more devices. As noted above, there simply isn’t a viable alternative for most PC users.
There are some concerning elements, though. I mentioned Vista, and that greatly-disliked operating system brought some elements to Windows that seem superficially similar to Windows 11. Widgets for the taskbar and desktop are the most notable. And from Windows 8, which was also considered a major disappointment, Windows 11 is bringing back the “multi-device” design, with the new OS supposedly being able to work on phones, tablets, touch-screens, and laptops as well as PCs.
One thing Windows 10 got absolutely right was its return to a focus on PC and standard keyboard and mouse input devices. I’m not convinced that enough people want a Windows 11 tablet or laptop to make building the entire OS around that concept worthwhile. Doing so risks making the desktop PC experience worse for users – and considering 99% of folks who use Windows do so on a desktop PC or laptop, that’s a mistake Microsoft can’t afford to repeat.
All that being said, I’ll give Windows 11 a shot when it’s ready. I like to stay up-to-date, and the newest version of Windows is an inevitability for someone who uses a PC daily. Might as well get in at the ground floor and start getting used to things – that’s been the attitude I had with every version of Windows since I first owned a Windows 95 PC!
One point to note is that Microsoft’s current policy is to continue to support Windows 10 “through October 14, 2025.” That’s a scant four years away, and if it should happen that support for Windows 10 ends on that date, as Microsoft seems to be implying, then everyone will need to upgrade to Windows 11 at that time. If there’s a free upgrade offered for a limited time, as there was with Windows 10, it would make sense in my opinion to take it.
Despite lofty promises in 2015 about kids being able to grow up with the ever-present, unchanging Windows 10, six years later Microsoft is ready to ditch it in favour of a new operating system. It looks to offer some superficial visual changes, and while I’m hopeful it’ll fix some of the problems with 4K displays that Windows 10 has suffered from I don’t know that for sure. It feels unnecessary, but as Microsoft is utterly dominant in the PC realm, anyone with a Windows machine should think seriously about taking the upgrade when it rolls out in the months ahead.
When the official Windows 11 upgrade or launch happens, I hope you’ll check back for my full thoughts on the latest version of the operating system. Until then, all that’s left to say is I hope it’s a success along the lines of Windows XP, and not a disappointment like Windows 8 or, god forbid, Windows Vista.
Windows 11 is being released in late 2021 or early 2022 by Microsoft. Windows 11, Windows 10, and all other properties mentioned above are the copyright of Microsoft. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.