28 June 2021

ZDNet: “Windows 11: Is Microsoft having its Spinal Tap moment?”

When I saw the first signs of the new hype campaign, driven by “leaks” of visual changes code-named Sun Valley, I assumed there must be more under the surface. Surely this new version of Windows will be an iceberg, with most of the interesting stuff below the water line. Those underwhelming interface changes are just something to make the demos flashy, right?

Or maybe not.

It appears, based on a million leaks, that Microsoft is going to increment the main Windows version number from 10 to 11 because… honestly, I have no idea why. Because they can? Because the marketing people need something to do? Because someone calculated that whatever business unit Windows is now in needs an extra three-tenths of a percent of revenue in FY 22?

Choose your adventure.

Ed Bott

The Windows 11 launch event is now behind us, but I still find myself agreeing with the article above, baffled as to why this minor update deserves a major version increment.

Microsoft Windows 11 event in 7 minutes: Android Apps, New Start Menu, Free Upgrade

The adjustments of the overall interface do not strike me as improvements, rather than shuffling things around for the sake of change, chasing the same boring look of mobile operating systems such as Chrome OS or Android. Many will likely confuse and annoy long-time Windows users: centering the taskbar and the Start button, replacing the Maximize button with ‘Snap Layouts’. I am very annoyed at the removal of Live Tiles; it was an original and fresh aspect of the Start Menu that I always enjoyed. To me it seems that Microsoft is repeating the path it took with Edge, abandoning a product because it failed to get the traction they wanted and because of a vocal minority of complainers.

There are some promising changes, such as improved gestures and touch support, a new Store with support for Android Apps, and an upgrade of the Microsoft Teams architecture to Webview2 – and the ancient Internet Explorer is officially gone, along with Cortana, Skype and Timeline. But these are mostly behind the scenes, helping developers first and end-users… possibly, at some point down the line, if more developers bring apps to the Microsoft Store and if Android Apps can be easily discovered and installed. But those are some big ifs…

Coming back to the reason for labeling this a major upgrade, the most likely contender remains boosting OEM sales for the upcoming holiday season. While this is still a free upgrade (cannot think why anyone would be willing to pay for such minor improvements), Windows 11 comes with rather strict – and confusingCPU requirements. Apparently, even Microsoft hardware will have a tough time upgrading to Windows 11. These points should clarify in the coming months before the expected October launch, but the existence of these limitations implies that the motivation for marketing this as a major upgrade is to drive sales of new PCs.

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