"Throughout its history, Windows has been a democratizing force for the world," CEO Satya Nadella said during the Windows 11 unveiling event Thursday. "Windows has created entirely new categories for both consumers and businesses."
Windows, which represents more than 10% of Microsoft's revenue, has played an important role during the COVID-19 pandemic, from helping businesses adapt to changes like working from home to keeping entertainment going amid government-mandated lockdowns with PC gaming.
According to Microsoft chief product officer Panos Panay, the new operating system will bring consumers closer to the things that they love.
Windows 11 offers a fresh layout with a centered start-menu, which includes a search box, featured applications and "recommended" files such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint. In addition, users will be offered news, weather and other information through Windows Widgets, which use artificial intelligence to offer personalized content that can be easily displayed across an entire screen with a simple swipe from left to right.
Windows 11 is also helping consumers and businesses stay organized through Snap Layouts and Desktops, which allow users to create personalized, pre-set configurations that they can easily move back and forth between. A Snap Groups feature in the task bar will also keep track of the apps previously used.
Panay noted that browsing the internet on Windows 11 will be faster and updates on the operating system will be 40% smaller and more efficient as they happen in the background. He emphasized that Windows 11 uses less overall energy than previous iterations, giving users longer battery life.
Windows 11 users will also have more flexibility in how they interact with their computer.
For those who use Windows 11 on a tablet without a keyboard, more space will be available between icons in the taskbar, as well as bigger touch targets and subtle visual cues to make resizing and moving windows easier. Windows 11 will also enable haptics to allow a user to hear and feel the vibrations of their stylus pen as they sketch out ideas or highlight and take notes. In addition, users can use voice commands to dictate their ideas and take a break from typing.
Windows 11 will also take Apple's FaceTime head on with the Microsoft Teams app now available directly through the operating system. Users will be able to instantly connect through text, chat, voice or video with all of their personal contacts, anywhere, no matter what platform or device they’re on, across Windows, Android or iOS.
Also built into Windows 11 is Xbox Game Pass, a cloud-gaming membership, which offers full access to hundreds of PC games from Xbox Games Studios, Bethesda, EA Play and third-party developer titles. The games will also be available across devices through new crossplay and crossfade features and can be purchased directly from the Xbox App. Windows 11 will offer breathtaking, immersive graphics at high frame rates through DirectX 12 Ultimate, automatic HDR to create a visually stunning gaming experience through lightning and color adjustments., and direct storage for faster load times and more detailed gaming.
Another way Microsoft is taking a direct shot at Apple is through Windows 11's revamped app store. Through the Microsoft Store, Windows 11 users can stream their favorite movies and shows all in one place and project that content onto their TV with a wireless connection. The Microsoft Store will also offer the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, Zoom and Disney Plus and support Android apps that can be downloaded through Amazon's app store.
Developers using Windows 11 will also be allowed to use any commerce technology they want and keep all of the profits that they make, rather than Microsoft taking the typical, industry standard commission fee of up to 30% associated with app purchases.
"Windows has always stood for sovereignty for creators and agency for consumers," Nadella said.
Windows 11 is set to debut this holiday season as a free update for Windows 10 users. The operating system will also be available on "Windows 11 ready PCs" that will sell before its launch.
"I'm incredibly proud of what Windows is achieved and how it has fostered lasting opportunity for others and I look forward to see what you achieve with Windows 11 and how will unlock enduring opportunity for people in the world," Sadella concluded.