When Windows 10 was announced, one of the biggest changes was to the distribution model. Rather than being a multi-year development cycle with major updates bringing a new version number and a new charge, Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows. All updates would come under that moniker and would not cost - instead, these updates would be bi-annual and be distributed through Windows Update. This week, some of that has been walked back, but not the important part - Windows 11 will be a free update for Windows 10 owners.
There are a ton of new features coming to Windows 11. I fact, there's enough of a change that they felt the need to change the version number. Of the major changes, the UI is the biggest and most obvious update. Everything from the icon for the Start button through the Start menu itself, and even the corners of the windows have been updated. Live Tiles are gone (unfortunately), as is the ability to adjust the size of the menu (for now). Fortunately, you can move the Start to the left side of the screen (where it belongs).
Another big addition is Widgets. Unlike desktop widgets of the past, these new widgets run within a panel that can be triggered by a new button on the taskbar or by swiping in from the left side of a touchscreen. These widgets are the expansion of the current feature of News and Weather on the Windows 10 taskbar. The benefit of the new system is that you can choose what information will be available.
Another big aspect of Windows 11 is the updated Microsoft Store. Android apps are coming to the platform and will be distributed through an expanded partnership with Amazon, bringing the Amazon App Store inside of the Microsoft Store. Because it's Amazon, Google Play Services will not be supported, but that is the case for all of the Amazon apps. Microsoft hopes that this will be the first of many partnerships to bring additional content to the Store.
First and foremost, Cortana has been demoted once again. She does not have a place on the taskbar (thought Widgets do), and she is not part of the Search experience. If you want to use her, you'll need to launch the standalone app, which may or may not come pre-installed.
Another previously core Windows component to be absent is Internet Explorer. We knew that the browser would be retired, and now we're seeing what that looks like. Microsoft has put all of its effort into the modern Edge browser, so it is definitely time to see the end of one of the earliest browsers.
Tablet Mode is also at the end of its life, but that is because the operating system now responds directly to touch versus keyboard and mouse. Rather than distinct differences, Microsoft is simply enhancing the touch experience in the current state. Icons on the taskbar will gain extra padding, hit boxes will get bigger, and overall the interface will be touch-friendly. But, it will still look and function like Windows 11 always does.
Who Will Get It
As always, there are specific upgrade requirements. Minimum processor, RAM, and storage are all pretty standard. However, the requirement that is going to be a problem for some is the requirement for Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0. Intel 8000+ and AMD Ryzen 2000+ processors support this technology, but nothing before them.
This requirement means that many of Microsoft's own computers will be left in the dust with no ability to upgrade. For desktops, this can be addressed with a small add-on card, but for laptops and tablets, you will be completely out of luck without this chip. Microsoft says that it is requiring the TPM 2.0 in order to prevent more hacking attempts going forward.