Microsoft has unveiled the first big change to its Windows platform in over five years, and it brings some notable changes for the industry. Mint takes a look at how Windows 11 changes user experience and the PC market.

Why is Windows 11 important?

When Microsoft announced Windows 10 over five years ago, it famously said it would be the “last version of Windows ever”. In the technology industry, an operating system (OS) version update is usually  a  time  for  sweeping  changes that  also  set  the  tone  for future apps and software development. But Apple and Google’s operating systems, which are updated every year, have mostly settled for incremental updates, and many read Microsoft’s declaration that Windows 10 will be the last ever as an acceptance of that. With Windows 11, expectations would be that developers and users will get features that they earlier couldn’t.

What is the big change this time?

While Windows 11 does bring some changes to the operating system’s user interface (UI), the big new change here is the fact that Windows will now support Android apps, enabled by tie-ups with e-commerce major Amazon and Intel. The Amazon AppStore will bring Android apps to Windows devices, while Intel Bridge is a technology that allows these apps to run on the different processors that Windows laptops are made on. Adding Android apps to Windows makes PCs more versatile, and Microsoft said apps like TikTok, Yahoo and Uber will work with its new platform.

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What else is changing in the latest Microsoft offering?

Smaller UI changes aside, Microsoft has also integrated Teams into Windows 11. It’s a big step for the firm’s video collaboration platform, and is no doubt driven by the growing popularity of such platforms after the pandemic. It’s a step that it never took for Skype, its other collaboration platform, and cements Teams as the tool that Microsoft is building for the future.

How does the new OS affect competitors?

The new Microsoft Store allows developers to use third-party commerce systems and keep 100% of the revenue they get from their apps and services. This could be troublesome for Apple and Google, which have faced pushback from developers for forcing their built-in payment tools on apps in order to collect commissions. Microsoft Store has been cited, by Apple and Google, as a competitor to the App Store and Google Play, which means that its new move could be seen as a precedent in legal battles that Apple and Google are facing.

What does it mean for the future of PCs?

Being the world leader in desktop operating systems, the minimum requirements for Windows 11 will set the tone for PC hardware in the future. While Windows 11 is a free update for “supported” PCs, only those with at least 4 GB memory are compatible with it. It also made TPM, a security feature that protects sensitive data, mandatory. While most modern PCs fit these requirements in markets like India, the cheapest laptops will become faster and more secure if they have to support Windows 11. Doing so could affect their prices.

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