Microsoft Paint: A retrospective
New York (CNN Business)Windows 10 was supposed to be Microsoft’s ultimate PC operating system. The promise: Windows 10 would forever get updated twice a year, bringing tweaks, the occasional fresh coat of paint and new features to keep your computer up to date.
But now, six years later, Windows 11 is on its way. We can only assume Microsoft (MSFT) got bored, because what we’ve seen so far of Windows 11 doesn’t feel like anything revolutionary.
A complete internal version of Windows 11 has leaked online. You can download it from some sketchy websites, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Still, it’s there, and it appears legit.
Based on the leak, Windows 11 is full of mostly small visual changes.
- The taskbar icons are centered, giving Windows a decidedly MacOS look (don’t freak out — it can be left-justified if you’re old school).
- The Start menu ditches live tiles for pinned apps.
- We’ve got a new Windows logo: four equal-sized rectangles instead of the trapezoid Microsoft has been using for Windows since the 2012 release of Windows 8.
- All the Windows icons have been redesigned with a more colorful gradient and a slightly more 3D appearance.
- Windows will have rounded corners.
- When you click the maximize button, you get options about how you want to lock the window in place — side by side with another app, a grid of three or a grid of four.
- It’s got fancy shmancy new wallpapers that ditch stylized photos of light shining through windows for something more floral.
- Also, it’s not a visual change, obviously, but Windows 11 is bringing back the startup jingle (the first since Windows 7).
That’s … pretty much it. Microsoft will reportedly update the Microsoft Store, but that wasn’t featured in the version of Windows 11 that leaked.
Here’s a quick visual synopsis from The Verge’s Tom Warren, who was braver than I and installed Windows 11 on a virtual machine.
here's a first look at Windows 11. There's a new Start menu, rounded corners, a new startup sound, and more https://t.co/VDS08QPsl5 pic.twitter.com/OkCyX3TtmI
The visual update is welcome. Microsoft has been teasing a big fall refresh for Windows 10, which makes sense for its longest-serving operating system version. (Windows XP was around for five years before Vista, so Windows 10 is the record holder — congrats!)
But new Windows versions usually bring some kind of new functionality or promise. If this really is all we’re getting, it feels a lot more like Windows 10.1 than Windows 11.
So why is Microsoft breaking its promise and turning Windows up to 11? Marketing.
Windows 10 was built for an era in which smartphones became the dominant computing tools and PCs were used almost exclusively for productivity. Sales dipped as people stopped buying new computers every couple years, and Microsoft shifted its strategy away from the whiz-bang new OS every few years to a far more boring but more consistent operating-system-as-a-service model.
Then Covid hit. People are living their lives on their PCs, which are suddenly hot commodities again. Microsoft was caught a bit flat footed, as Chromebooks flew off shelves for remote-school students and Apple introduced its blazing-fast M1 chip for Macs.
Introducing: Windows 11. It may be Windows 10 with a sleek new interface, but it’s something Microsoft and its PC manufacturing partners can hang their hats on for back-to-school.
Of course, we’ll have to wait until Microsoft officially unveils Windows 11. Maybe there’s something magical under the hood that we can’t see from the leaks. Microsoft is expected to reveal Windows 11 on June 24 at 11 am ET.
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