Windows 11 is set to be one of the most anticipated software releases of the next few months. Penciled in for a 2021 launch, development is well underway, and Windows Insiders have been trialing the latest features since the new addition was announced.
Some were taken by surprise at the announcement of a new iteration of Windows. Microsoft claimed back in 2015 that Windows 10 would be the last revision of the operating system. At the time, the plan was to release regular updates that would keep the software secure, functional, and up to date as computing evolved.
Plans clearly changed, and incremental updates were clearly insufficient to keep Windows at the forefront of residential and commercial computer use. There’s also the significant importance of Windows to the company’s bottom line. More than 16% of Microsoft’s revenue comes from Windows, and free updates would never go down well with the finance department.
Considering that Microsoft is also heavily involved with gaming through its Xbox consoles and corporate social networking following the acquisition of LinkedIn, the fact that Windows exceeds both revenues combined meant that a new version of the flagship operating system was all but inevitable.
New Windows releases rarely pass without controversy. Outside of specific releases like Windows Vista, most complaints stem from familiarity. More so than any other piece of software, people see and interact with their operating systems every day. When something isn’t where they’re used to, the obvious reaction is one of complaint.
Finances aside, the decision to create Windows 11 cannot have been an easy one. With an employee on record saying that a new release would never happen, a follow-up to Windows 10 would represent a U-turn at best.
Fortunately, Microsoft appears intent on making Windows 11 fresh and feature-packed. Much more than an incremental release, this seems to be a genuine effort to upgrade what is now a six-year-old operating system into something genuinely new.
From what we’ve seen so far, the computing giant is focused on remote working and cross-platform support. During the pandemic, Microsoft Teams went from an unused inclusion in Office packages to a critical meeting tool for teams of all sizes. The meeting and collaboration tool won’t just receive a facelift with the launch of Windows 11. It will become an integral part of the operating system, with direct and easy access from the taskbar itself.
The failed efforts at creating Windows Phones – Microsoft sold off its Nokia subsidiary shortly after Windows 10’s release – has pushed Microsoft supporters towards Android. Just as most new Xbox releases can be played on Windows PCs as things stand today, Windows 11 is set to boast full support for Android apps.
The eternal battles between Windows and macOS continue, with some observers claiming that the new look of Windows 11 brings it more closely in line with Apple’s operating system. However, given that the company is renowned for clean design and superior functionality, that could prove a wise decision.
How Much Will Windows 11 Cost?
Long-time Windows users will remember the days of activating products online and desperately scrambling around for product keys when using a new PC. Today, most Microsoft users will already have a Windows 10 key attached to their Microsoft accounts. So switching to different hardware is as simple as logging into that account, at which point Windows is fully active and ready to use.
Microsoft famously encouraged as many people as possible to make a move to Windows 10. As a result, the upgrade to the tenth iteration was completely free outside of particularly old versions or those that had never used Windows before.
The good news is that Windows 11 looks set to follow a similar pattern. As a result, Windows 10 owners will be entitled to a free upgrade to the next iteration.
So what does that mean to Microsoft’s Windows revenue?
The new upgrade appears to follow a freemium model. The ever-divisive Microsoft Store will take pride of place in the latest release. It’s well known that Apple makes more from the App Store than it does from the hardware that relies on it. Microsoft seemingly wants to do something similar.
The overhauled Microsoft Store won’t be exclusive to Windows 11 – those that opt against upgrading will find the same experience on Windows 10. Nevertheless, the new version is designed for incredible speed, a more comprehensive selection of apps, and improved usability.
This won’t be the first time Microsoft has sought to position itself as a one-stop-shop for all the software anyone could ever need. However, with close Xbox integration, a suite of essential products such as Office, and a slew of acquisitions, the new store stands a better chance of success than anything that has come before.
The free upgrade means that consumer appetite is set to be exceptionally high. Windows 10, with a similar upgrade path, captured 75 million users within four weeks of launch.
There’s no reason why Windows 11 cannot become the de facto standard for consumer PCs. However, businesses are a different story, as they often are, with internal testing and reliance on older infrastructure often delaying significant software upgrades.
Most consumers will hope for another Windows 10 success story with its successor rather than a Windows Me abomination – widely regarded as the worst Windows release of all time. Reception among Insiders has been positive so far, and so there are plenty of reasons to be excited about what Microsoft has in store later this year.