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Microsoft Officially Unveils Windows 11

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The latest iteration in the world’s most popular OS is on the horizon.

Windows has been my operating system of choice since the very first time I heard that beautiful Windows 95 startup noise. While it’s never exactly been perfect, its straightforward, user-friendly design and recurring terminology and sensibilities have formed the bedrock of my computer experiences (which is also why I get easily confused when I have to use a Mac). It’s been six years since the transition to Windows 10, less for some of the longer holdouts, but it seems Microsoft is finally ready to bring us the next step.

On Thursday, at an official Microsoft Event, the company officially unveiled Windows 11, the next iteration of the Windows OS series. Rather than the major overhauls of previous versions, Windows 11 is intended to provide some more subtle adjustments to the user experience, with an additional goal of being a smooth and calming UI.

“The team obsessed over every pixel,” Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay said during the event. “All of these details coming together, the transitions, the user interface, how it all flows together, is meant to bring you an incredible sense of calm.”

So what’s new? The first and most obvious change is the shifted Start menu; instead of its usual perch on the bottom left, the Star menu is now accessed from the middle of the bottom task bar. Spatial changes are a big theme here, as Windows 11 also includes “Snap Layouts,” a variety of window layout options one can use to set their preference of maximized window placement on a desktop.

Certain apps like Microsoft Teams, Xbox Game Pass, and the Microsoft Store will have native integration with Windows 11, allowing you to launch them right from the taskbar. Windows 11 will also have the Auto HDR feature for optimizing visuals while gaming, a carryover from the Xbox console family. The Microsoft Store is receiving an overhaul to be more user-friendly, as well as allow access to both Android and PC apps. Microsoft took a moment to take a pot shot at Apple by clarifying that developers on the Microsoft Store can set their own payment systems without worrying about Microsoft taking a cut.

A hard release date hasn’t been set yet, but Microsoft said that users of Windows 10 will be able to upgrade to Windows 11 for free sometime this holiday season.