Windows 11’s biggest novelty is an app store redesign

Meet Microsoft, the champion of competitive markets.

Not a sentence you would expect to read 20 years ago. But Microsoft Windows 11 event made it clear today that the company wants to position itself as the anti-Apple, at least when it comes to distributing software. The next version of Windows includes notable changes to how Microsoft’s app store works, at a time when Regulators scrutinize Apple App Store and Google Play Store fees and competitive practices.

Within the framework of the new Windows 11, which will start rolling out to PCs by the 2021 holiday season, Google’s Android apps will run on Windows PCs, which was technically possible previously through emulation software but will now be functionally easier.

Microsoft’s product manager, Panos Panay, also said Microsoft will allow developers to use their own payment platforms to bill customers, allowing them to keep 100% of the revenue they make from their apps. This is another stark contrast to the App Store policies set by Apple, which has long insisted that developers use Apple’s payment technology and take up to 30% of app-generated revenue. The fight for payments sparked this year highly publicized legal battle between Apple and Fortnite-creator of epic games.

Windows has undergone dozens of iterations since its launch in 1985. The last announced operating system update, 10X, was going to be a revamped version of Windows 10 for hybrid computing devices, but last month Microsoft released it. gave up. Now Microsoft has focused its attention again on the PC, at a time when PC sales have been revived by the demand caused by the pandemic. In the first quarter of this year, nearly 70 million PCs were shipped worldwide — the fastest growing year over year the personal computing industry has seen it in two years.

“Through the pandemic, we kind of learned that we were trying to integrate the PC in a number of ways into our lives. And that sort of shifted where our lives had to fit into the PC for a while, ”says Panos. “And so, the PC has to feel familiar and inviting, and loving, withdrawing and trying to bring you to your best computing place. “

On the surface

In addition to the changes to the App Store, Windows 11 will include a host of visual updates, from a newly centered taskbar to transparent windows and softly rounded app edges.

As usual, Microsoft has put productivity first and foremost. The reduced opacity of windows, for example, is supposed to allow users to see what’s open behind their main application and help them switch tasks more efficiently. The infamous Start button will now drop to the bottom center of the screen, rather than the left, but tapping on it will launch a Windows widget panel on the left, a “sheet of glass,” as described. Panay. New “snapshot layouts,” an extension of an existing multi-window feature, will allow users to create custom window layouts and save those snapshots to the taskbar. Microsoft’s Zoom competitor Teams will be integrated more directly into the desktop user interface.

“I just didn’t see a ‘wow’ on the announcement,” says Mika Kitagawa, research director at Gartner. “Putting icons in the center, I don’t know if that’s a good idea because people have gotten used to having the start button on the bottom left. And then things like transparency, I don’t know how important that is for productivity. Sounds cool, but do we care a lot about it?

The other substantive updates are all about games and borrow a lot from the Xbox platform. Some Windows 11 PCs will now support Auto HDR, switching to higher contrast graphics in games when available, and a feature called Direct Storage, where game resources are preloaded onto the machine’s graphics card. and rendered faster. But it will only work on PCs with the right set of drivers and a certain storage threshold.

All together now

People certainly expect visual updates with newer versions of operating systems, but the biggest novelty of Windows 11 is the way applications will run on Windows PCs. Some of these changes may be largely symbolic, but they still represent a relatively new Microsoft philosophy towards “openness,” which he outlined in recent versions of the device and software.

Android apps will become easier to use on Windows in Windows 11, another attempt to merge popular mobile apps like TikTok and Instagram with productivity suites on the same Microsoft machine. (Microsoft has struggled to get popular consumer apps on Windows in the past.) It’s still a bit tricky, as it requires downloading Android apps from the Amazon App Store, which runs on a open source fork of Android. Panay declined to respond if Microsoft had approached Google about potentially running Google’s own Play Store on Windows 11.

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