When Windows 10 was released, it sought to do quite a few ambitious things. It has to regain lost ground, due to the flaws of previous iterations of the operating system. It had to appear robust, competitive, and complete when compared to Mac OS X. It also had to be stellar on its own, and able to create converts both from Mac and previous versions of Windows. By and large, it’s succeeded at all of these. Now that Windows 10 has been on the market for a while, many are wondering if there have been any whispers about Windows 11. Is it only hypothetical? Have any features been announced? Will it be just as cheap to upgrade as Windows 10? Is there, possibly, a release date?
Surprisingly, we can answer all of these questions with relative certainty. There are more important questions to ask, though, so read on as we delve into the success of Windows 10.
To say that Windows has had a troubled prior decade would be putting it a bit likely. Even though none of their operating system releases have been outright terrible, numerous performance issues and fairly poor critical feedback had begun given Microsoft a bad name. While we can reach all the way back to Windows XP and see an ocean of happy users, every release since then has practically haunted Windows’ reputation.
Vista was a logistical nightmare, and though it was pretty (when it worked) it was a resource hog that tended to not upgrade well or perform as well as it should on older systems. Windows 7 sought to fix many of the problems existent in Vista, and though it succeeded, for the most part, it still didn’t reach the lofty praise that was heaped onto XP. Then came Windows 8 and 8.1. It was about the time that Windows decided to adopt a more “mobile-friendly” interface. It was the primary reason that Windows 8 was developed with touchscreens in mind. The only problem with this, of course, was that a majority of desktop and laptop computer users weren’t using touchscreens in the first place. This resulted in many of the Windows 8 features that Microsoft touted the most being limited to only a small portion of those using the operating system. For the rest, Windows 8 was simply awkward.
We can all be thankful that Windows 10 is as good as it is. Though the rollout featured some prominent bumps in the road (which we’ll discuss, shortly), the operating system is one of the best that Microsoft has ever designed, and it has done more to unify the experience of Windows users than any software before it. This is especially relevant since Microsoft is kicking some serious butt on the hardware end of things.
However, you might be wondering what we can glean about Windows 11, through the study of Windows 10’s success. Being that we don’t know whether we should expect Windows 11 on the horizon, the wondering is understandable.
It’s hard to find a great deal of fault with Microsoft’s newest operating system. It has accomplished what three previous generations of Windows have all failed to, all while delivering a robust and fertile software environment upon which Microsoft can build.
Desktop users will find quite a lot familiar with Windows 10, especially if they’ve been computing since the days of Windows XP. The Start Menu has returned, but it’s more of a “smart” menu. It’s connected directly to Cortana, the new Windows virtual assistant (similar to Siri of iOS). The improved Start Menu looks similar to those in older versions of Windows, but at the same time, it incorporates a new level of accessibility that every user can take advantage of.
Windows 10 is also capable of serving as a great mobile platform, as has been evidenced by its use on mobile devices, as well as Microsoft’s own hybrid hardware–the Surface Book and Surface Pro. The operating system works just as well with a touchscreen as it does without, which has helped it to dodge much of the flak that came during the Windows 8 era.
What’s Coming for Windows 10
If you’ve been a Windows user for quite a few years (this writer has), then you’ve probably noticed that Microsoft is treating its newest operating system a little bit differently. Before, updates and new additions were always handled in the background. Sure, they worked well, and they were certainly welcome when they arrived, but they were never hailed or eagerly awaited by thousands of people. That kind of fandom and following is usually reserved for Apple products, particularly the iOS and Mac OS X operating systems.
Not so, with Windows 10. The first major update to the operating system–dubbed the “Anniversary” update–arrived back in August, and it was a bounty of much-needed improvements, tweaks, and new features that users actually wanted. Smartphone interaction got better, Cortana got smarter, and among other additions, Windows finally began to incorporate a “dark” theme that was easier on users’ eyes.
All welcome changes, right? Well, we’re not done yet. Another update is due in early 2017, this one titled the “Creators” update. While it will, once again, contain upgrades and tweaks across the board, this big update is going to be focused on improving and innovating Windows in ways that creative professionals and hobbyists will appreciate. How does a completely new Microsoft Paint sound? One that’s capable of working with 3D objects? Bundled right into the OS? That sounds like a Windows to be excited for.
Microsoft Hardware + Windows
One of the other major changes that Microsoft has implemented over the past several years is a focus on its own proprietary hardware. For the most part, Microsoft has stuck to the software side of things, developing its Office suite of productivity applications and, of course, the most widely-installed operating system in the world–Windows.
That changed when the company debuted the first in its new “Surface” family of devices. The first to hit the scene was the Surface Pro, a hybrid tablet that could attach an accompanying keyboard and function as a full-fledged laptop. It was a flawed device, being fresh out of the gate, but rather than give up, Microsoft continued to innovate and evolve the hardware. Today, the Surface Pro 4 is arguably the best 2-in-1 tablet hybrid on the market.
The Surface Book joined it, last year. It’s more of a full-on laptop, the screen of which can detach to function as a standalone tablet. And announced during the Fall of 2016 was the Surface Studio, an all-in-one PC with a massive touchscreen and a powerful Nvidia GTX 980m graphics card. It’s the type of machine that artists drool over, but nobody expected it to come from Microsoft.
Microsoft vs. Apple
The past year and more have helped Microsoft to maneuver much closer to the ground held exclusively by Apple. It was an unpredictable move that has largely paid off for the tech giant, especially as Apple’s recently-announced Macbook Pro refresh has been met with no small amount of tepid boredom. Now, Microsoft has its own arsenal of hardware designed specifically with its own software in mind, aimed at professionals that need reliability.
What does that mean for the future? For one, we can be more excited about all of the things that Microsoft has in store for its operating systems and hardware. This doesn’t just mean looking forward to the next generation of Windows like it used to; it means we can look forward to the smaller updates, as well.
What About Windows 11?
Of course, it’s still up in the air what the next generation of Windows is going to look like. Mac OS X manages to remain successful because it’s always been approachable. It grows and evolves, but it’s never changed so drastically that new users haven’t known what to make of a new version. Windows is certainly guilty of that, and more than once. We only need to look at Vista, 7, and 8 for the proof.
We’ve spent the majority of this article talking about the ways that Windows–and Microsoft–have changed, and there’s a reason behind that. We are never going to see Windows 11. Now, before that boggles the imagination too hard, let’s take a look at what Microsoft has said about Windows 10.
As of this newest version of Windows, Microsoft is transitioning its operating system platform from major releases–Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10–to a “service.” No longer will you have to upgrade to a new version of Windows every time one releases. Instead, once you’ve purchased Windows, you have Windows on your machine for the foreseeable future and are eligible to receive upgrades as they’re deployed.
Neat, right? And also highly reminiscent of the way that Apple manages its own software ecosystem. Consumers only stand to benefit from it, too. We’ll be saving money and avoiding the learning curves that often accompanied the new releases of Windows as they hit the market.
How’s that for a twist ending? There is no Windows 11 release date because there is no Windows 11! Instead, all future features and upgrades will be eligible to people who have Windows installed, meaning that we can start to get excited about new, incoming features without worrying about how much they’re going to cost. Any questions? Let us know in the comments, below!