When Microsoft announced Windows 10 back in 2015, they said it was going to be the last version of Windows to be released. It has been six years since then and Microsoft has been sustaining Windows 10 through mandatory twice-yearly updates. But, nothing lasts forever. We know it. (And Microsoft knows that we know it.) The tech giants are about to announce Windows 11.
The most recent leaks have unofficially confirmed the existence of Windows 11. And we can now say for certain that the announcement is definitely happening.
In this article, we will share everything we know so far about the upcoming release of Windows 11.
When Is Windows 11 Coming Out?
As of now, the only official announcement from Microsoft has been a tweet about the next Windows event, scheduled for June 24th, 2021, where they are expected to reveal more. The company has announced that this is going to be the biggest OS update in a decade.
Rumors of a big Windows update have been floating around for some time now. But it has only been in the past couple of months that Microsoft has started teasing this so-called update.
Typically, Microsoft has been rolling out two major updates for Windows 10 every year. The latest update was rolled out recently with very little changes. So we can expect the next big update (or Windows 11) to come out in the fall of this year. And, it will most likely be available as a free update.
If past scheduling is anything to go by, after the announcement of Windows 11 during the June 24 Windows event, Microsoft will start sending previews to Windows Insiders right away. Following this, they will start sending Windows 11 to beta testers and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OMEs).
Will Windows 11 Be A Free Update?
Given how long it has been since the last major Windows release and how familiar users have gotten to the free update routine, we can expect Microsoft to roll out Windows 11 as a free update as well.
Towards the end of the year (possibly November), Windows 11 will be made available as a free update to Windows 10 users.
Where Can You Download Windows 11?
If you don’t already have Windows 10 installed in your computer, you will have to download and install Windows 11. Once the official announcement is made, you will have to wait until the release date when Microsoft will add Windows 11 to their Software Download page. You will be able to download it from there.
We don’t know what the prices will be just yet, but they will probably be on par with the current Windows 10 prices: $139 for the home edition and $200 for the Pro edition.
Out With Windows 10X (In With Windows 11?)
Before all this Windows 11 buzz, Microsoft had announced something called Windows 10X. This was supposed to be a lightweight operating system for devices such as the Surface Neo. After the Pandemic and the subsequent hit to their business, the company announced that 10X would be released for single screened monitors.
Last month, Microsoft officially killed all plans for Windows 10X. Microsoft’s head of Windows servicing and delivery, John Cable, wrote the following in a blog post:
“Instead of bringing a product called Windows 10X to market in 2021 like we originally intended, we are leveraging learnings from our journey thus far and accelerating the integration of key foundational 10X technology into other parts of Windows and products at the company.”
This was another major hint for the arrival of Windows 11 as it showed that Microsoft was presumably backing away from their commitment to the continuity of Windows 10.
The most recent Windows 11 leaks show that the OS has indeed picked up a lot from the design plans of the 10X.
All the Windows 11 Hints and Rumors so Far
The most recent leaks are the most definitive proof we have so far about the existence of
Earlier this year, when rumors of a huge Windows update were first starting to surface, The Verge had reportedly spotted a job listing posted by Microsoft:
“On this team, you’ll work with our key platform, Surface, and OEM partners to orchestrate and deliver a sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows experiences to signal to our customers that Windows is BACK and ensure that Windows is considered the best user OS experience for customers.”
Given how Windows 10 has looked more or less similar for the past 6 years, “a sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows experiences” could only allude to a new version of Windows.
Last month, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gave the most promising hint so far during the annual Build conference for software developers:
“Soon we will share one of the most significant updates of Windows of the past decade to unlock greater economic opportunity for developers and creators.”
Earlier this month, right after the official announcement of the upcoming Windows event, Microsoft reportedly sent out invitations to media personnels, inviting them to the event where they were set to (in Microsoft’s own words) “unveil the next generation of Windows”.
Popular industry insider, Evan Blass (@evleaks) has also confirmed that Microsoft will announce Windows 11 on June 24. Blass has an excellent track record when it comes to insider news.
And recently, Microsoft (possibly) teased Windows 11 in the most peculiar way. They posted a Slo-fi Remix of the Windows 95, XP and 7 startup sounds, slowed down by 4000%. The description in the YouTube video also mentioned the upcoming Microsoft Event:
“Having trouble relaxing because you’re too excited for the June 24th Microsoft Event? Take a slow trip down memory lane with the Windows 95, XP, and 7 startup sounds slowed down to a meditative 4,000% reduced speed.”
Given how Windows 10 doesn’t have a startup sound, this was speculated to be a sign that Microsoft could reintroduce the concept in the upcoming version. And this has indeed been proven thanks to the latest leak. Here’s what the new startup sound for Windows 11 sounds like:
What Will Windows 11 Look Like?
These most recent leaks shared by The Verge’s Tom Warren give us the best look we’ve had of Windows 11 so far:
Microsoft hasn’t officially revealed anything about Windows 11 yet. But we’d been hearing of a “major UI refresh” scheduled for 2021 since the fall of last year. And given how we just received the most recent Windows 10 update without any major UI changes, it was eminent that the planned “major UI refresh” to be a part of Windows 11. And that does seem to be the case.
The leaks have indeed shown that Windows 11 will be adopting a lot of the UI features originally planned for Windows 10X.
A possible UI update was first reported by Windows Central back in October. Back then, there were no rumors on Windows 11 and the planned update was codenamed ‘Sun Valley’.
The Windows Central report from last year claimed that we could expect a new Start Menu and some new Action center experiences among other changes. Visually, ‘Sun Valley’ was reportedly going to resemble the now-abandoned Windows 10X, only adapted for desktop environments.
The recent leaks show that the start button, along with the other taskbar icons, are different and have been moved towards the center of the taskbar. But they can reportedly be moved back to the left hand side, if you want to.
Windows 10 has looked more or less the same since its release in 2015, except for some slight changes. In Windows 11, we can expect Microsoft to follow the current industry trend with rounded corners.
Microsoft has been working on a new rounder UI for Windows for sometime now. And recent Windows 10 updates have even rolled out some of these changes like the weather widget on the taskbar. It is safe to assume that this will be huge part of the Windows 11 experience as well.
We can also expect a lot of new icons and a revamped taskbar. Of course, none of this is official yet. We will have to wait for the official announcement.
How Will Windows 11 Be Different From Windows 10?
Windows 10X have now been scrapped for something “bigger” (presumably Windows 11). But it is safe to speculate that Windows 11 will try to maintain a uniform look across mobile and desktop platforms. That was the original idea with ‘Sun Valley’ resembling Windows 10X anyway.
With Windows 10, one area where Microsoft has struggled in terms of this mobile-desktop uniformity has been the touch feature. So we can expect this to be a huge feature in Windows 11. Back in 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8 with a major focus on touch. In retrospect, they might have been a bit hasty there.
So with Windows 10, there was a major scale back in terms of touch. But no one really cared back then, as everyone was just happy about the reintroduction of the start menu. Microsoft has tried and struggled to streamline the touch feature across its Windows 10 platforms.
So it is safe to assume that Windows 11 is going to put a major focus on touch. The developers could introduce some new swipe gestures as well as tap features that are consistent across the various platforms that will run Windows 11.
Also, based on changes in the Dev channel builds, it is safe to assume that Windows 11 won’t require any special hardware update. You will be able to use it in machines that support Windows 10.
Microsoft Store Update
Another major change is going to be with the Microsoft Store. Microsoft Store was first announced with Windows 8 back in 2012. But it hasn’t really taken off as well as the other major app stores like Google’s PlayStore or Apple’s App Store.
One major issue has been with licensing. Until now, Microsoft has sought to maintain some control over the apps that are distributed through their store. With Windows 11, Microsoft will allow users to submit their apps without packaging. The apps can also be hosted in the developer’s own Content delivery network.
All this is in line with CEO Satya Nadella’s recent claim that the upcoming update will “unlock greater economic opportunity for developers and creators.”
Timeline of All the Windows Releases (1985 – Present)
Here is a timeline of all the major Windows releases since 1985:
- Windows 1.x (1985 – 1987)
- Windows 2.x (1987 – 1989)
- Windows 3.0 (May 22, 1990)
- Windows 3.1 (April 6, 1992)
- Windows NT 3.1 – 4.0 (1993 – 1996)
- Windows 95 (August 15, 1995)
- Windows 98 (May 15, 1998)
- Windows 2000 (December 15, 1999)
- Windows Me (June 19, 2000)
- Windows XP (August 24, 2001)
- Windows Vista (November 8, 2006)
- Windows 7 (July 22, 2009)
- Windows 8 (August 1, 2012)
- Windows 10 (July 15, 2015)
- Windows 11 (2021?)
Note: It has been almost 6 years since the last major Windows release. This has been the longest period between two major releases.