Microsoft today released the Windows 11 Insider Preview to developers. Redmond’s new OS features sweeping visual changes, including new icons, a reimagined start menu, Spaces-like virtual desktops, and more. I had a chance to download the newest build and play around with it.
The design of Windows 11 is Microsoft’s most ambitious yet. Windows in the OS feature rounded corners, and why they are obviously heavily influenced by macOS, they look good. Microsoft has made it clear in the past few years how focused it is on design, and this update shows it. The taskbar is now centered—and yes, it looks just like the macOS dock. Transitions are smooth, animations are slick, and there is translucency throughout. The overall vibe that Windows 11 gives me is they are trying to appease PC users who may be eyeing a jump to the Mac.
The build released today is just a preview and is the first of many we will see before Windows 11—affectionately known as Sun Valley—lands for consumers this Fall, so I wasn’t expecting flawless performance, especially because I am running a virtual machine. Nevertheless, performance was decent and I didn’t have any major issues running Spotify, Edge, and Discord while navigating around the OS. For the Insider Previews, Microsoft isn’t enforcing any of the updated hardware requirements that have been so controversial.
New Features 🆕
One of Windows 11’s big features is its ability to run Android apps. While not present in this release, this appears to be an anticipated addition for Windows & Android users. Microsoft seems to be going after Google’s Chrome OS with this one, as the apps also run without issue on both ARM and Intel devices.
Task View—virtual desktops that are almost an exact ripoff of macOS’s coveted Spaces—is another feature that is in this release. Frankly, I’m surprised it took Microsoft this long to photocopy this signature macOS feature. I feel like Spaces on the Mac are a big selling point of the OS because of how handy they are, especially if you’re using it with multiple monitors like I am. If you’re a Microsoft Teams user, Windows 11 will integrate the app natively into the taskbar. Personally, I don’t use Teams and this was another feature left out of the build, so I’m unsure about the level of integration that it will have.
This is where things get tricky. As many might recall, Windows Vista was released in early 2007 with updated compatibility requirements and a slew of software and driver issues. In 2007, if you saw a product with VR in the name, you weren’t getting your first look at virtual reality; it stood for Vista-Ready. After XP’s successful 6-year run and continued popularity and use, compatibility issues and problems with Vista’s overreaching new UAC features meant that enterprise customers took a hard pass on the upgrade. Windows 7 would release just two years later in 2009.
Back to Windows 11, the story here is that Microsoft is requiring systems running Windows 11 to have 8th-gen Intel chipsets or newer, and they must have a TPM 2.0 chip on board. This has pissed off a lot of people—including those who may have thrown down ~$3,500 on a Surface Studio 2, which will not receive Windows 11.
Obviously, the virtual machine on my Mac isn’t supported (no Mac is supported due to their lack of TPM), but I don’t personally know a single person with a PC new enough to receive the update to 11 either. I can’t imagine how many millions of few-year-old PCs, including Microsoft’s own hardware, are in homes and businesses that will stop at Windows 10 if Microsoft doesn’t change course and offer a solution. Otherwise, these are all features that these users will take advantage of with the next iteration of Windows when customers make their next hardware purchase.
As stated, I’m not a Windows user. I grew up using Windows and I find it fascinating to see how it has evolved over the years in contrast with macOS. Windows 11 is a bigger release than it might seem. While not every PC user will get the update, like Vista, it brings features that will become commonplace in future Windows releases.
Basically, Sun Valley isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. You won’t see an exodus of upset PC users, and there won’t be a swarm of Mac users like me rushing to use Illustrator on a PC with a Surface Pen.