Microsoft has officially unveiled the next version of Windows, hailing its new, simpler design as helping bring users "closer to the things they love".
Windows 11 has been given a complete redesign compared with previous generations with new app icons, more translucent windows and a simpler Start menu – now moved to the centre of the screen.
The Teams video-conferencing and communications app has been integrated into Windows for the first time, appearing to take the place of Skype, and the Microsoft Store has also been rebuilt and will support Android apps on Windows for the first time.
The technology giant made the announcement during a virtual event, however it was plagued with technical issues as the video stream repeatedly buffered and left many unable to properly follow events.
Once the video stream was working, the company took a clear swipe at rivals Apple over its approach to taking a commission from app developers and the revenue they generate through in-app purchases on Apple's stores.
Microsoft distanced itself from that process, saying the Microsoft Store would allow apps to use their own “commerce engine” if they chose it, and would allow them to keep “100 per cent” of the revenue generated.
Speaking during the unveiling, Microsoft's chief product officer Panos Panay said the aim of the latest update was to help people do more with their computer while also making things more simple.
“At a time when the PC is playing a more central role in our lives, Windows 11 is designed to bring you closer to what you love,” he said.
“We’ve simplified the design and user experience to empower your productivity and inspire your creativity.”
New Start menu
The new Start menu will enable users to quickly access their recent files using the cloud Microsoft 365 and show any files they were viewing earlier, even if it was on an Android or Apple iOS device.
The tech giant is also introducing a feature called Snap Layouts, a range of screen layouts where users can split several apps across the screen in one click and which can be saved and returned to later on.
A new personalised feed of news and other content, called Widgets, has also been introduced and will show a collection of news, weather, to-do lists and calendar items.
Industry expert Geoff Blaber, chief executive of analyst firm CCS Insight, said the update "was not a revolutionary step" but was a "logical step" forward.
“The simplification of the Windows interface will be well received,” he said.
“Windows users and their requirements have grown so broad and diversified that Microsoft had to figure out how to introduce new functionality, hide complexity and bring the features that matter to the fore. This is a journey, but Windows 11 is a good start.
“In the face of a heightened competitive threat from Apple’s M1-based Macs, Microsoft is emphasising its philosophy of openness and connecting ecosystems by supporting Android apps and the Amazon App store.
“The contrast with Apple is becoming ever sharper, giving customers a clear choice.” – PA