So, I have been using Windows 11 on a test Surfacebook for a couple of weeks now and managed to get the Office356 preview installed this morning and overall I really love the direction of the operating system.
Look and Feel
The icons are more consistent, the animations are more fun and fluid, and overall it feels like a much more modern operating system than Windows 10 does. It borrow some look and feel from MacOS and ChromeOS, but I think that’s a good thing. I particularly like the centered start menu, which is great for widescreen monitors. I always found it kinda annoying to have to drag my mouse across a widescreen or ultra-widescreen monitor.
Merging Web and Local Apps
One thing I do really like about Windows 11 is that the default web browser, Edge, is effectively Google Chrome underneath so you really benefit from Google’s focus on progressive web applications. Its trivial to turn web apps like Gmail, Google Photos, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, and Pocketcasts into desktop applications. It is as easy as click the “Install this website” button in the address bar for a lot of these websites or you can go into the menu of Edge or Chrome and install them as an application. Thing I really like about this is that not only do you get an icon in the tasks bar + start menu, but the web app then launches in its own window with its own access to things like notifications and taskbar badge icons, which is great for apps like Gmail or Twitter. MacOS because of Safari still silos off web applications into tabs and you have to switch to Edge or Chrome to get these features and they still do not feel as native as they do on Windows 11 or ChromeOS.
This feature is not out yet, but I think it’s a brilliant idea. One of the things that have made me hesitant to recommend a Surface Go or Surface Pro to normal people is that they kinda suck as consumption tablets. Going forward, you’ll be able to have Netflix, the Kindle app, Comixology, and various games + apps from the Amazon App Store. Its not the full Google Play catalog for now, but with Kindle Fire’s being the most popular Android-based tablet, having Amazon’s App Store on Windows 11 will give people a LOT more things to do in their free time when they’re not trying to be productivity Chad’s with Microsoft365 + Teams.
I like what I’ve seen from the preview of the Teams quick chat thing (Also not out), but I am not sure how I feel about Teams being used as a consumer brand. I guess Skype is tainted now and Xbox chat would not make sense. I’m just not sure from a branding perspective that Teams is the best name, but it is a name that people know. I hope that for the consumer integration we do get better consumer features like Photo sharing, Xbox game support, video+music stream sharing, etc.
Xbox xCloud Integration
I really need to borrow or acquire an Xbox controller for this, but I really love the idea that Microsoft is making xCloud available on Windows 10 and Windows 11 PCs. As somebody who has a Mac I’ve always wanted to play PC games, but just couldn’t bring myself to pay that much to build a gaming PC that I would only use a couple of times a months, especially with it being fixed. I really like the idea that somebody could have an ultra book like the MacBook Air or Surface Laptop or Dell XPS 13 and play high-end Xbox One games or even PC games like Halo Infinite or the next Skyrim. I particularly like the idea that eventually anything can becoming your gaming machine, even a smart TV or a smartphone with your Xbox controller or keyboard/mouse. I find xCloud particularly interesting on something like a Surface Pro or Go tablet. Devices that have been traditionally great for school. I could see next year during the back-to-school deal them including an Xbox controller + Xbox Game Pass Ultimate when you buy a device for college like they did a couple of years ago including an Xbox One S if you bought a laptop for college.
Azure Virtual Desktop applications
Going with the merging of web applications and local applications, I like the idea that with Azure Virtual Desktop Enterprises or Small Businesses could pay for access to higher end workstations and then just publish the applications people need to their desktops and it looks and feel like a seamless Windows application. I think that is a really powerful idea that normal workers could have thin and light laptops with great battery life, but when they need to run more powerful line-of-business applications or even GPU+Processor intensive applications like AutoDesk or Adobe Creative Cloud for that stuff to run in the Cloud. You can see a preview of this feature in the Windows365 announce from them week. Right now those VMs do not support dedicated graphics cards like Azure Virtaul Desktop does right now, but I think its only a matter of time before that service expands to virtual machines with graphics cards. More importantly though, with Windows365 enterprises or businesses could equip their people with modern, secure Windows 11 PCs and run their older applications in the cloud where the data is secure and you do not run the risk of their employee’s device infecting, corrupting, or encrypting important databases that a company runs off of.
Windows Cloud Configuration
Windows 10 cloud configuration is another interesting idea that I need to try out at work. I imagine that Windows 11 will get this feature as well. It essentially turns a Windows PC into a Chromebook in that it runs stuff like browsers, Office365, Teams, etc (Or other productivity apps like Slack/Zoom/Google Workspace) and just a handful of approved applications. I think some will find this too limiting for their employees such as developers or engineers, but others may find it a bit liberating knowing that they can use their PCs at work without having to worry as much about malware. It allows IT to be more of a the good gatekeeper (Hopefully) and not a tyrant, setting a more secure baseline and allow end-users to request applications from their IT staff and give IT the ability to vet applications for security, compliance, accessibility, and more before they roll out to end-user’s PCs.
Windows Store has been a joke ever since it came out with Windows 8. Microsoft was initially so strict that nobody published applications and even made it impossible to publish non-modern applications (Aka apps that didn’t use Microsoft’s newest programming languages and frameworks). It feels like Microsoft has finally realized that the strength of Windows is that it just runs apps from anywhere, whether it’s a native Windows application, a progressive web application, a Linux application, Java application, Election app, Android app, etc. The new Windows 11 store can just be a pointer to another company’s servers to pull down the application and its immediately more useful. Apps like OBS, Zoom, and the Adobe Creative cloud apps are already starting to show up in the store. I really like this idea a lot that Microsoft is curating a store so that it can help guide people to the safest and official download for applications. Instead of Google searching an application and hopping you get directed to the right now and not a scam app or viruses, hopefully the Windows 11 store will build up enough trust over the coming years that non-technical people start defaulting to that rather than risking getting their binaries from the internet.
Overall, I’m really impressed so far with Windows 11. Its feeling like the Switzerland of operating systems now instead of forcing you to do everything the Microsoft or Apple way. Its much more capable than ChromeOS and with Android apps and stuff like My Phone, it’s a really compelling option to an Android phone user as well. I’m really looking forward to seeing it change and evolve over the next couple of years, but between the look, the application blending, and their overall philosophy for the first time in a long time I am excited about the next version of Windows, even to the point that I could see myself using a Windows machine in the possible future.