Windows 11: it’s a glorified theme pack we can all live with

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Microsoft is set to unveil the next version of Windows today. All the evidence – including leaked versions and teaser videos Microsoft released ahead of the event – suggests this new version will be called Windows 11.

Now, we originally thought Windows 10 would be the “last” version of Windows – at least that’s what Microsoft sent in 2015. This implied that future updates would be more incremental, instead of the “Big” versions. Bang “. we have seen previously.

So why are we now getting a major new version of Windows?

A history lesson on Windows upgrades

Let’s refresh our memory: Before the release of Windows 10, we had large important versions that introduced significant changes to the operating system. They were colossal pain points for consumers and modernizing organizations. For example, in the consumer space, Windows 95/98 / ME switched to Windows XP, which used the NT kernel and the system architecture we still use today, and it was a huge deal for consumers. .

Prior to that, as some verticals migrated to Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0, most businesses moved from Windows 95/98 to Windows 2000, implementing Active Directory (and moving from LAN Manager and Novell NetWare to NT in the data center). ) then XP, so the migration was painful and confusing for them for many different reasons. Then we saw all this mess with Windows Vista, then the migration to Windows 7, and the UX disaster that was Windows 8.

It was a very eventful twenty years. But when Windows 10 came out in the summer of 2015, it injected a bit of sanity into the equation. A few years ago, Microsoft went at a semi-annual pace with incremental upgrades to roll out improvements. This became not only a bugfix or service pack, but a model for introducing new features.

Instead of waiting every five years, more or less, to present them, Microsoft did so twice a year. Due to this semi-annual update scheme, Windows 10 is a very up-to-date operating system today, with many modern features already.

So what is Windows 11? Well, if you read Ed Bott’s latest post, it looks like it’s more of a fall update for Windows 10, with a new user experience.

What is the 11?

Why bother with branding? Why knock on the version number? What’s wrong with calling it Windows 10 21H2 or 2111 or whatever? I mean, Mac OS X was the same top-tier version for 20 years – it came out in March 2001 and didn’t get the nickname “11” until 2020, when the Apple Silicon change was implemented. And this year’s version, Monterey, is MacOS 12.

So much progress in such a short time, Apple!

But that’s all marketing; There have been huge changes in macOS over the past 20 years regardless of the “X” brand.

And with Windows, it’s the same, too: Windows 10 of 2015 only looks superficially like Windows 10 of 2021.

Traditionally, Microsoft has used the replacement of version numbers and brand names to remove stains from a previous version – like Windows 7 eliminating Vista or Windows 10 eliminating Windows 8 – or to improve the PC upgrade cycle with its OEM partners. .

But we don’t have any stains to wash here. Windows 10 is a great operating system, the hardware PCs have today is actually pretty impressive, and Windows 10 is already taking advantage of all of that.

I mean, come on, we even have a Linux subsystem in Windows now that lets you run all kinds of cool open source apps, even graphics. Do we have this in 2015? No.

Bring the PC upgrade cycle to life

I think we can argue that Microsoft wants to put a spark in the PC upgrade cycle because that inertia has been slowing down for quite some time due to various factors – but that’s a whole other story altogether.

Let’s face it, the “stain” we need to remove here has nothing to do with Windows – and everything to do with the pandemic and all the other crazy garbage the world has thrown at us over the past four years.

Maybe it’s more of a celebratory time for Microsoft to say, “Hey, it’s good to get back in the water – here’s a flashy new swimsuit to get you started. Oh, while you’re at it. , shave and get your hair cut And go buy a new PC, your jalopy is old.

I think there is a natural desire to see tangible changes, especially when comparing the PC platform to the Mac. Then, of course, there will be the usual grunts of those who think Microsoft isn’t innovating enough or getting rid of legacy things fast enough.

But we shouldn’t let that cloud our thinking about why Microsoft is doing things the way they are. Nor is it fair to impose the same rules and constraints on Microsoft customers and developers that Apple imposes on its own.

The PC is not the Mac, and Microsoft’s customers are not Apple’s

We can play the usual “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” nonsense, and that makes some funny sound bites, but that’s not how the real world works.

Obviously, over the past year or so we’ve seen Apple make some significant changes to the Mac. First, it changed its chip architecture, which led to real improvements in processor performance and power consumption when it switched to Apple Silicon, based on the ARM architecture. Second, it introduced a new layer of x86 emulation, Rosetta 2. Third, it introduced Catalyst so that iPad apps can run on the Mac. Finally, he added sandboxing and containerization on Apple Silicon Macs.

Many wheelchair observers are hoping Microsoft will do something like this. But in the case of the PC, it doesn’t make sense to completely clean up the slate and make so many drastic changes at once.

It’s easy for a company like Apple to throw away apps written over 10 years ago; he decided with Catalina, who is two versions back, that he would throw away a lot of old APIs and frameworks. So if you haven’t upgraded the apps as a developer or as an end user, you have been out of luck.

But it doesn’t work that way in the business and corporate world when you have vertical industry stuff and in-house applications that are over 20 years old. Apple does not have a server operating system on the same base architecture that runs things in the cloud or in data centers as Microsoft. Apple also doesn’t have a large-scale commercial cloud enterprise that needs to run this legacy code like Microsoft does – or a business application unit like with Office 365 – that still needs to work.

While we could say that Microsoft has to take a page from Apple, the reality is that when Microsoft has to decide to introduce a new version of Windows, it has to worry about a whole host of things.

Change is coming at a reasonable pace

Microsoft could introduce a new Windows architecture based on ARM, containers and everything in between to make Windows behave more like Apple does with iPad and MacOS Monterey on Apple Silicon. But does it have the technical expertise and the capacity to implement it?

Yes, but he also can’t afford to smash things at the end of the day, or it will be a total disaster.

But the good news is that Microsoft has been working on these things for a while, even though you might not have noticed them. The company has openly discussed these types of changes at its BUILD conference and with its partners. And the infrastructure for those changes – like the containerized and sandboxed apps that would have been built into Windows 10X – is still there.

This will all come to Windows 11 after the novelty of the new swimsuit and haircut is gone. This application sandboxing includes the well-documented MSIX open source package format to ensure that application installers do not exceed their limits.

But instead of waiting for all of these things to mature and roll them out as a big change in Windows 11, Microsoft takes the “accustom customers to a new look” approach and then gradually introduces those elements. Just as we’ve seen with Windows 10 over the past five years, it will be business as usual.

Can you live with this? Can I live with this? Can businesses and businesses live with this? Of course we can.

Really, it’s Windows 10.5. But for marketing purposes, Microsoft wants to call it Windows 11. And we have to assume, by what appears to be a very short beta and deployment cycle, that this won’t be a big deal in terms of licensing or upgrading. level – – it’ll look like another fall update. So presumably any PC hardware that’s already running Windows 10 will get it, and it will work.

This time take the upgrade and don’t panic

This isn’t the kind of change that will break apps or orphan the majority of PCs, although there is an outward possibility that some older systems, such as 32-bit machines, could be left out – and, frankly, these machines are very long the tooth.

But the reality is, for 90% of us, if we have a PC that is running Windows 10 today, at some point in the fall, Microsoft is going to offer us an upgrade through Windows Update, and that will be. painless like any other fall update.

And it is very good. I have had way too much excitement over the past four years. I can live with predictable, boring, and healthy incremental changes in my Windows environment. It would be refreshing.


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