Tech

Hot Take on the Windows 11 Preview

Windows 11 has been officially announced, and it didn’t really meet my expectations. Judging from the work that has gone into UI tooling for developers, I was expecting a cleaned-up, slimmed-down, refined operating system. Instead, Windows 11 doesn’t seem all that different from Windows 10, except for the addition of another design system layer and deeper integration with Microsoft cloud services.

Design

The Fluent Design System was started in 2017 as a refinement over the one from Window 8, known as “Metro.” Windows 10 incrementally adapted more Fluent concepts, controls, and icons with every release. Also, new developer libraries like WinUI3 (also known as “Project Reunion”) have been recently announced. It seemed like Microsoft was trying to bring apps from all eras to this new design system.

Window 11 does sport some refinements, rounded corners, and more of the Fluent Design concepts like acrylic, but there are still inconsistencies in the basic Windows experience. For some apps, like Disk Management and Control Panel, the refinements are limited to just the window border.

Also, why does Windows 11 still have both the Settings application and the Control Panel?

Overall, I’m fine with the visual updates. They are a step in the right direction, and they mostly look nice. There is clean-up work to do, but until WinUI3 officially ships, there are going to be inconsistencies between apps made with different Windows libraries.

One design change that I’m not happy about is the centered Start button. The bottom-left is a great place for something so frequently used. Without looking, you can quickly move your mouse as far over and down as you can and still land on it (see Fitts’s Law). Also, as things are added to the task bar, the position of the start button will move.

Store

The Microsoft Store now supports third-party “commerce engines,” which means developers can handle their own in-app purchases without giving Microsoft a percentage of the transaction. This, coupled with previously added support for Win32 and electron apps, is their push to centralize app distribution on Windows into their app store.

It also means Adobe Creative Cloud can now be in the Microsoft Store.

Windows 11 also supports running Android apps (if your computer has “Bridge Technology” from Intel). In order to find and install these Android apps, the Microsoft Store will let you browse the Amazon Appstore.

However, judging from the traction that iOS apps have on macOS, I am not sure what kind of impact this will have on Windows. Also, I’m not sure about what kind of Android apps to expect since apps on the Amazon Appstore need to find an alternative to the many APIs that ship with Google Play Services.

Integrations

Windows 10 was pretty pushy about using a Microsoft account instead of an “offline account,” but Windows 11 Home will now require a Microsoft account. I’m curious if setting up Windows 11 Professional will be even more pushy than 10 about a connected account.

I’m also not thrilled about Teams integration in Windows. At my work, we use Slack, and I don’t see a need for Teams in my personal life. Will there be APIs that Slack can use to reach the same level of integration that Teams has? Or is this another antitrust issue waiting to happen? It feels like Microsoft is leveraging its dominance with Windows to push their messaging and conferencing solutions to more people.

Removals

Microsoft has removed a fair amount of stuff according to the Windows 11 specifications. Gone are Internet Explorer, Cortana, Live Tiles, Timeline, Wallet, Paint 3D, OneNote, Skype, and more.

I was hoping for even more of this kind of refinement in Windows 11. Remove features, applications, and services that are no longer needed and unify duplications like Settings, Control Panel, and Computer Management. Maybe that will come in Windows 12.