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Windows 11 first thoughts

I installed Windows 11 on my personal laptop last night because I like to try new things. Some people see an update to Android, or to a program they use, and fear having to learn the changes, or to make things comfortable again. But I am the reverse – if something can be changed, I want to try it out.

Every review that I have seen says something like “It’s not finished yet” which is true, so I will ignore that.

The first thing that stands out is Teams. Teams has been a replacement for Skype for Business and for Lync for quite a while now. Since COVID, most Microsoft-based companies have embraced Teams thoroughly abandoning terrible applications like Cisco Webex / Cisco Jabber, or other buggy, hard to administer, bespoke messaging applications.

With Windows 11, there is a consumer-only version of Teams baked right in. It automatically starts with Windows by default and it only lets you sign in using your non-work or school account. Which is confusing. Why can’t I do what I do in Edge and sign in with two profiles, getting messages in either place? Even more confusing, the Work or School version of Teams cannot be downloaded from the Microsoft Store, even though lots of new apps are in there, like Zoom.

Appearance-wise, Windows 11 is a major upgrade. It looks neat and tidy and lots of junk has been removed. For example, a lot of people right-click on the Taskbar to open Task Manager. This is actually less efficient than Ctrl + Shift + Esc which is what real power-users do, and is not at all intuitive for non-power users. So why was it ever there? Well now it’s not.

The icons have also been improved for things like Notepad, but also the individual icons within Settings. This feels much more like a modern operating system.

The elephant in the room (the Snow Leopard in the room) is the centered taskbar, and the new Windows menu (which bafflingly, still has “Start” as it’s tooltip). This new menu is much prettier, but it also has a different purpose, which I don’t think I have seen anyone mention. More on that in a minute. It also emphasizes searching for apps, rather than having them accessible. And the silly live tiles are gone completely – like the entire world, I miss them not at all. One mistake I have noticed in the redesign is that the tooltips on taskbar icons are pretty and curved, as promised by this whole new look. But when an app is open, the tooltip is not rounded, but looks like the old Windows 10 version.

Curved tooltip on File Explorer, square tooltip on an open Edge window

The new Windows menu has a flexibility of design that I truly believe might be part of Microsoft’s medium-term plans. I said in an earlier post that the future-incorporation of Android apps into Windows might be a bridge to allow Microsoft to relaunch Windows on mobile devices. I think the Windows menu is further evidence of that – on a small screen, the shape of the menu will still work, and will still be able to have the same overall design. Unlike Windows 8 and Windows Mobile, the differences would only be about form-factor, not about appearance.

I would be very surprised if a mobile device running Windows 11, running Android apps, and Windows apps, is not launched in the next two years. What do you think? Am I being optimistic, or is Microsoft setting things up for a future where it pursues Android’s market?

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