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Microsoft announces Windows 11, will be a free upgrade for Windows 10 users

As expected, today Microsoft officially announced Windows 11. A number of the new UI changes were already leaked earlier this month, but now, we have full details on new features, redesigned apps and other improvements. 

Windows 11 does come with a new start menu, which completely drops the ‘live tiles' which were first introduced with Windows 8. It is a simpler interface, offering quick access to installed and pinned apps, as well as recent documents. Search is handled with a separate interface. There is also a new widget interface, which slides in from the side of the screen.

Microsoft is implementing a ‘Snap Layouts' feature with Windows 11, allowing users to quickly snap apps and assign them to portions of the screen. This is particularly good for productivity, as you can set up all the apps you use throughout the working day and automatically have them open up right where you want them to be. This is one of the multi-tasking features originally built for Windows 10X, in fact, a lot of UI features and other portions of Windows 11 have been carried over from that project.

Microsoft Teams is now integrated into Windows, which likely means the end of Skype. There is also an overhauled Windows Store, which now supports a wider range of apps, no longer limiting developers to Microsoft's UWP platform. The Store also has integration with other stores, such as Amazon's Android app store – Android apps downloaded through here will run within Windows. Microsoft is encouraging others to integrate with the Windows Store by not taking a cut of any sales made through another Content Delivery Network. So for instance, if you buy an app through Amazon's Android Store within the Windows 11 Store app, Microsoft will not take a revenue cut.

For gaming, Microsoft is including two features that originally debuted on the Xbox Series X/S consoles – Auto HDR and DirectStorage. Auto HDR adds high dynamic range to DX 11 and DX 12 games, while DirectStorage allows the latest NVMe SSDs to load games even faster. The new Windows 11 Xbox app is also included, which comes with xCloud game streaming built in.

Microsoft has also cut down on the amount of bloat included in Windows. Future Windows 11 updates will be 40 percent smaller compared to Windows 10 and updates will be pushed to the background, so you won't be disturbed by update notifications.

Windows 11 will be launching later this year, with Insider testing set to begin next week. When Windows 11 is ready to officially ship, it will be a free upgrade for Windows 10 users.

KitGuru Says: So far, Windows 11 is looking promising, with a return to simplified start menus, redesigned native apps, a new store and other improvements. What did you all think of Microsoft's first showing for Windows 11? Will you be taking advantage of the free upgrade?

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