Windows 11: The Ars Technica Test

Microsoft

Microsoft wanted everyone to use Windows 10.

Given the slow adoption of Windows 8 and the stubborn popularity of Windows 7, Microsoft made Windows 10 a free upgrade for all users of both versions – the offer technically expired years ago, but to this day old Windows 7 and 8 product keys keep activating still Windows 10 without protest. The operating system was billed as a return to form that would appeal to people put off by Windows 8’s divisive touchscreen-centric user interface, while maintaining touch-friendly features for those using a PC tablet or laptop with a touchscreen bought.

Windows 10 would also be durable. Some at the company called it “the last version of Windows” – a large, stable platform that would appease change-shy users, huge IT stores that would have used Windows XP forever if they could, and software developers who wouldn’t have to worry more about supporting several completely different Windows generations at the same time. Windows could still change, but a new maintenance model happening twice a year would keep that change at a slow but constant pace that anyone could keep up with.

In fact, with Windows 10, Microsoft achieved its main goal: it’s the most widely used and most accepted version of Windows since XP in every way. Statcounter Says Nearly 80 Percent of All Windows Systems Worldwide Run Windows 10; The Steam Hardware Survey determines that Windows 10 usage is at or above 90 percent, suggesting even greater adoption among enthusiasts.

These numbers on the top line require some context. Microsoft has released a dozen different versions, all of which are referred to as Windows 10, and the latest version of Windows 10 is at least as different from the version that launched in 2015 as is (say) Windows 7 from Windows Vista. But in theory, almost every computer that has Windows 10 installed will be updated to the latest version at some point, and that gives Microsoft a bigger and more consistent platform than it has in a long time.

The problem for Microsoft is that achieving one goal – having the same version of Windows on almost all PCs – didn’t necessarily produce the results Microsoft was hoping for. Make Windows 10 big enough, it was thought, and developers would be more willing to migrate from their old Win32 apps to newer UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps and simply distribute them through the Microsoft Store. And since UWP apps could run not only on PCs but also on Xbox and Windows Phone, a quick rollout of Windows 10 in the Windows-dominated PC industry would set in motion a positive cycle that would change Microsoft’s other hardware and software- Efforts would support.

That part never really happened. UWP apps never caught on, and Microsoft’s new game to make the Microsoft Store relevant is to allow developers to submit any type of apps they want. While the Xbox is successful, it continues to focus closely on gaming and media streaming. And Windows Phone is dead, slain by a combination of disinterest from users and developers, fueled by confusing news, and startling corporate neglect.

And that’s at least one of the reasons why Microsoft, after a release that considered widespread adoption its primary goal, is releasing a brand new version of Windows that isn’t even supported on computers that are 3 or 4 years old. Windows Everywhere was ambitious, but the dream is dead. Microsoft has shifted its focus to getting solid versions of its apps on iOS and Android, and even Microsoft’s modern phones run a Microsoft-based version of Android and not everything what has to do with windows. The new version of Windows is more concerned with the places Windows already is and likely will stay – risk-averse, money-rich, security-conscious companies. There are sure to be a lot of user-centric changes out there, but the PCs running Windows 11 (at least officially) to need to support a range of hardware and firmware level security mechanisms that are fully supported but optional in Windows 10.

(The more cynical view is that the new requirements are meant to drive new PC sales, an interpretation made all the more plausible by the ongoing pandemic-induced shortage of PC parts and price increases. Personally, I find Microsoft’s security rationale compelling, but it doesn’t exist no Evidence to support this more nefarious reading of the company’s intentions.)

We’ll be focusing on those security features and system requirements in this review, while also covering the new design and big moves of new and updated apps, as well as the other changes Microsoft has made to Windows under the hood. We also plan to have separate coverage of some specific areas of the operating system, including games, new Linux subsystem functionality, and how it runs on older “unsupported” hardware; we will link these pieces here when they go live.

About Willie Ash

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