Windows 11: Predictions, Thoughts, and The Legacy of Windows
“Windows 11” is what many dub the next iteration of the Microsoft Windows operating system after its predecessor and current latest version, Windows 10, released in 2015. Since this tweet from the Windows Twitter account and this tweet from Microsoft CPO Panos Panay surfaced, many have theorized about the rebranding of Windows following the demise of Microsoft’s mobile-friendly operating system, Windows 10X. Subtle details such as the lack of a horizontal bar in the shadow of the window in Panay’s tweet- supposedly done on purpose to reveal an “11” in the light coming through the window and the 11 AM EDT date set for the reveal (Microsoft usually holds Surface and Windows events around 10 AM EST/EDT). This has gone on despite the announcement in 2015 stating that Windows 10 would be the “last version of Windows” as CEO Satya Nadella began to transition Windows into the SaaS domain.
Why a new version of Windows?
However, this announcement was made by former CEO Steve Ballmer, who no longer works with the company, which is why many question the credibility of his statement. Microsoft has also not been the best at keeping this a secret- whether that is intentional or not. A couple days prior to the writing of this, Microsoft accidentally leaked through documentation that Windows 10 would be retired support on October 14th, 2025. Paul Thurrott of thurrott.com has noted that this specific date lines up with Microsoft’s 10-year lifetime that has been tradition since 2007’s Windows Vista- possibly adding some credibility to the Windows 11 conspiracy theory.
Just today, June 15th, a development version (version 21996, the current dev version being 21390) for what seems like Windows 11 was leaked online, showing a very Windows-10X-like UI, with a lot of rounded corners and minimalistic design choices. This version has been shown to have the name “Windows 11”, but it is still unknown whether or not it is just an internal name/pre-release name to avoid confusion.
My Personal Predictions
I’ve seen a lot of people on places such as Reddit or news articles suggest that this next iteration of Windows will indeed be called “Windows 11”, often backing up that claim with the fact that the “Windows 10 is the last version” statement is outdated, the “11” in the window of CPO Panos Panay’s tweet, the 11 AM event time, and other observations. Others, while seemingly having the less popular opinion, think that the next iteration will simply be called “Windows” instead of Windows 11. This could be true if Windows 11 is just an internal name to remove confusion on the inside, and/or Windows wants to rebrand to something else during their transition towards software as a service.
Reasonable or not?
Both are completely possible, alongside many other theories, since Windows has not officially released a name of any sort. However, through these observations, it seems like there is a lot of evidence to prove that the next version will be named Windows 11 rather than just Windows. Despite this, I personally think that the transition to a more uniform user interface and experience will be enough to change the branding, removing a number.
The leaked 21996 development build does show that the version is called Windows 11, but since it is in early stages, it’s hard to know whether Microsoft will choose to keep this name or change it eventually when they may try to roll Windows out to more devices of all shapes and form factors. Since operating systems named Windows with something after it usually correlate to a desktop experience, Microsoft might want to change the version name to just “Windows”.
My Thoughts on Windows 11
While Windows 11 is still in its super early stages, as the only physical existence of it lies within a leaked developer build, most of my comments may or may not be relevant once the later releases roll out.
Similarities to other operating systems
Windows 11 has a lot of design elements from the now-defunct Windows 10X, including rounded corners, more fluid animations, a centered taskbar, and more emphasis on the “acrylic” design style. Compared to Windows 10, Windows 11 looks quite a bit… inspired by design choices of Chrome OS, macOS, and some Linux distributions, with the taskbar, rounded corners, start menu, and icons being some similarities.
What I like
The operating system looks quite fluid and a lot more one than Windows 10 does, which was sort of a weird mesh of Windows 7 and Windows 8 trying its best to conform to what’s in style. A lot of the operating system looks very much like it flows together, making for a much more consistent overall picture than what I thought Windows 10 was. Icons from previous eras have seem to be removed, with Windows 10’s mix of modern icons and Windows 7 era icons in many places like the File Explorer being a mild visual inconvenience.
It also may be possible that Windows may change the font from the Windows 8 Segoe UI to the new, more geometric “Segoe UI Variable Display” which is seen to be pre-installed with other fonts on a few of the newest Windows 10 development builds. The Segoe font has undergone changes since its inception in 2004, with Segoe UI being released in 2012, and Segoe UI Variable Display in 2021 for release of new operating systems. It is unknown whether or not Microsoft will change their logo along with their products’ logos which currently use Segoe UI.
What I don’t like
I think that Windows has really leaned quite a bit into the Chrome OS/macOS/Linux territory in terms of design, with the start menu looking quite like something from Chrome OS or even macOS. In fact, Windows has traditionally has had a lot more left-aligned design elements as opposed to many Linux or Unix-based systems with the task bar, start menu, search, etc. being centered. Windows 10X and Windows 11 have moved the start menu and taskbar icons to the center, including the Windows start icon. It is unknown whether or not the search bar on the taskbar will return, as it does not seem to exist in current screenshots. It is, however, on the start menu- similar to Chrome OS’s apps menu. The search menu looks less Windows-y with the start menu on the top and more- again, inspired by some Linux distros. Plasma-based Kubuntu comes to mind.
What I hope to see
Windows 11 is in very early stages of development, making it very hard to judge as we don’t have a picture of the final product; not even close. With the limited amount of knowledge that we can pool together, I can infer that Windows 11 is trying to be a polishing of Windows 10, recreating a lot of the older aspects of the operating system that did not get overhauled when Windows 7 and 8.1 users moved to Windows 10 for the first time back in 2015.
With this came a serious problem with consistency- the 8.1 era Metro icons mixed with Windows 10 Metro icons mixed with the “new” Windows 10 icons for certain apps and the updated Windows 7 icons, the Windows 7 context menus mixed with dark-mode responsive Windows 10 context menus, multiple save dialogues, two settings applications that redirected to each other at points, and many more issues.
Windows 10’s consistency (or rather, lack thereof) became a bit of a joke online and was often compared to other operating systems which had a more uniform look than Windows 10’s jumble of different design choices. Having such a mess makes Windows 10 look like an incomplete patch-together of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, Frankensteining together different pieces of the operating systems. This is something that I hope can be improved in Windows 11, if not completely solved. If Windows is at the end of the line in terms of features and will only continue to release software updates, I think that Microsoft will start to work on the user interface and experience portions of the operating system- at least, one can hope.
Windows 11 (unofficially- Microsoft is yet to make an announcement regarding the name but there is quite a bit of evidence referencing this possbility) is the supposed successor to 2015’s Windows 10, Microsoft’s consumer line of operating systems used on desktop PCs, laptops, and other devices worldwide on a great many platforms. The first development build has accidentally been leaked and has been tested, showing a large resemblance to Windows 10X, the cancelled mobile-friendly operating system that Microsoft was previously working on. Based on this, it’s reasonable to think that Windows 11 is supposed to blur the line between power enthusiasts on desktop and lightweight 2-in-1 device users.
Some people have said that the new, refreshed UI looks a bit like what would come out of a Linux distribution or other popular Linux-based or UNIX-conforming operating systems like macOS or Chrome OS. Some UI elements have moved, like the start menu and taskbar icons; again, a move in the “inspired-by-other-OSs” direction. It’s unclear whether or not these will be changed or are final based off of the feedback from what hopefully will be the public beta releasing on this June 24th. Windows 10 has been historically criticized a lot for its bugs and lack of consistency in UI elements; hopefully this will change for the better in the next iteration of Windows.
Edit 6/24/21: Looks like Microsoft has officially unveiled it as Windows 11. Happy to see what’s in store!
Credit to Johny Vino on Unsplash for the stock photo second from the top.