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Microsoft's Windows 11 brings updated looks with a focus on multitasking and gaming

·Technology Editor
·5 min read
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Microsoft (MSFT) on Thursday rolled out its latest version of its Windows operating system. Windows 11, which will be available this holiday season as a free upgrade for existing Windows 10 users, is designed to be a more simplified version of the world's most popular desktop OS.

"Today marks a major milestone in the history of Windows. It's the beginning of a new generation," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during the product announcement.

A new look

The latest version of Windows has a softer look all around, with rounded edges and slight transparencies for each window. The Start menu and toolbar are now located at the center of the bottom of the screen, which the company says is designed to make the software feel focused on the user. Microsoft has also added touches like light and dark modes, new themes, and the ability to use separate desktops for your specific needs.

Windows 11 gets a whole new look with softer edges and more transparencies throughout the operating system. (Image: Microsoft)
Windows 11 gets a whole new look with softer edges and more transparencies throughout the operating system. (Image: Microsoft)

If you're a gamer, you can have one desktop for gaming, another for work, and another for school — each with different themes behind them.

Widgets are also back with Windows 11 in the form of AI-powered cards that you can customize. It's also similar to the widgets Apple (AAPL) offers in macOS for its Mac line of desktops and laptops.

Microsoft has also made using Windows 11 easier on 2-in-1 devices when your keyboard is detached. No when you pull the keyboard off of your machine, Windows will automatically add spaces between on-screen icons, and make touch points more obvious, to provide for a more intuitive experience.

Multitasking gets a boost

Multitasking in Windows 11 is also getting a nice upgrade, with a new multitasking menu that allows you to snap apps to the left or right side of the screen, snap four apps to each of the screen's four corners, or even snap three apps by dividing the screen in thirds.

And with app groups, users will be able to save the layout they've created for their apps. So if you have a certain setup you like using for work, you can save your app group and pull it up every time you're on the clock.

Multitasking gets a boost in Windows 11 with the ability to snap multiple apps in a variety of layouts across the screen. (Image: Microsoft)
Multitasking gets a boost in Windows 11 with the ability to snap multiple apps in a variety of layouts across the screen. (Image: Microsoft)

Importantly, and thankfully, Microsoft has added a new feature for people who use secondary monitors in their work stations. Now when you unplug your monitor to take your laptop with you to another room, the apps you had on that second screen will minimize rather than becoming disorganized and jumbled on your desktop. 

And when you plug back into your second screen, the apps will return to the exact position they were in before you unplugged. That's going to be an incredibly helpful tool for both creators and workers who need the added screen real estate a secondary monitor offers, but hate the logistics of using two screens.

Interestingly, Microsoft is now integrating its Teams platform directly into Windows, which means that it will have an even larger potential install base to pull from.

Gaming gets a shoutout

Gaming is also a major part of Windows 11. Microsoft spent a good portion of its announcement discussing the importance of the operating system to gamers, and the improvements it's bringing to the gaming community.

Gaming is a major part of Windows 11 with direct integration for things like Game Pass. (Image: Microsoft)
Gaming is a major part of Windows 11 with direct integration for things like Game Pass. (Image: Microsoft)

For instance, the software giant says that Windows 11 will support auto HDR and direct access storage, two technologies found in the Xbox Series X that allow for improved visuals and faster load times. Importantly, the Xbox app is now built directly into Windows 11, giving users access to their favorite Xbox titles and the ability to quickly access the company's Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

A steal of a deal, the base version of Game Pass gives you access to more than 100 games for $9.99 per month. Upgrade to Game Pass Ultimate for $14.99 per month, and you get the games for Xbox, Windows PC, and Android devices, as well as access to Microsoft's cloud gaming platform and EA Play access.

A rebuilt the app store

Perhaps most intriguing of all, Microsoft is giving its Microsoft Store a much needed update. The app store will run apps ranging across the spectrum of Windows, whether they're built as Win32, Universal Windows Apps, or Progressive Web Apps. Microsoft is also bringing Android (GOOG, GOOGL) apps like TikTok to Windows 11 via the Amazon (AMZN) App Store through the Windows Store.

Microsoft's app store is getting a slew of new features in Windows 11, including the ability to run Android apps, and the option for developers to keep 100% of the revenue from sales of their apps. (Image: Microsoft)
Microsoft's app store is getting a slew of new features in Windows 11, including the ability to run Android apps, and the option for developers to keep 100% of the revenue from sales of their apps. (Image: Microsoft)

In other words, the Windows 11 Microsoft Store is going to be a one-stop shop for all of your app needs. But the current app store feels relatively barren when it comes to available apps. So how is Microsoft going to entice developers to jump in when they can host their own apps on their own websites for people to access?

By giving those developers the option to pocket 100% of the revenue from app sales. Yep, Microsoft is firing a shot not just across the bow of Apple and Google in the app store wars, but right through their own stores' hulls. While Apple and Google prevent app developers from offering their own third-party payment options in their respective stores, Microsoft will let developers do just that.

If developers choose to use Microsoft's payment service, Microsoft will continue to take a cut. But if they user their own, they keep it all.

It's a massive move by Microsoft, which only stands to benefit by drawing in developers who may be tired of Apple and Google's revenue sharing agreements.

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