Windows 11: So good, yet so bad.

8 min read • 25 June, 2021.

When I heard about the leaks of a new Windows, I actually thought of it as a joke at first. It brought back the glass design and it replaced the old icons from Windows 7 with what I probably would have found on DeviantArt as a free icon pack. But, yesterday, Microsoft announced Windows 11 to the world, and I'm both a fan and not.

The new design and look

The new design is on the glassy side; that is to say: lots of transparency. It features the recognisable task-bar moved to the centre of the screen with the remaining strip still remnant. This task-bar change will cause some people to have their muscle memory ruined, but I've heard there will be a switch to allow you to have the default view. A larger focus on a more unified design across first-party apps has been made but has yielded icons that I'm not a particular fan of.

The brand-new, never before seen tiling system has been updated to give you more presets and remembering of tiling what's on your desktop with ease; which is to say, it's not new at all. I first saw it in Pop!_OS, with their hybrid approach to make it easy for people who are used to either window management system to feel at home on Pop, but it's been in tiling managers for who knows how long. It's nice regardless to see this feature be added to make it easier for those who are used to that system to feel at home on Windows as well.

Widgets make a return similar to that of the panel on macOS and are likely the successor to Live Tiles from Windows 8 and 10. It's a much nicer system, and to those who use widgets, it should be a nice addition.

Gaming just got even better

With better integration with Game Pass, it was no surprise Windows made sure their service works great on Windows. However, things like DirectStorage, which allows PCI devices like your graphics card to talk directly with your drives (instead of through your CPU like normal), and auto HDR, should yield not even greater performance but better looks to games on Windows. DirectStorage was first seen (afaik) on the Xbox Series X/S and the PlayStation 5.

A throwback in all the wrong ways

In 2001, you may have remembered a lawsuit from the U.S. against Microsoft due to abusing a monopoly with pre-installing Internet Explorer and would give it an « unfair advantage » over Opera and Netscape (the big names at the time). Since then, IE has been used mostly for installing Chrome or Firefox, and that's about it.

Hilariously, I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't another antitrust suit against Microsoft with Windows 11 due to the bundling of Microsoft Teams. This would fall under the same situation of giving them that « unfair advantage » over alternatives like Skype and Zoom. Personally, I don't care, as I only really use Jitsi or Google Meet for professional things.

A Microsoft Store You'll Want to Use

Android apps are now available via the Amazon App Store, bringing a slew of new apps to Windows and adding feature parity with macOS (where you can install iOS and iPadOS apps). There is sure to be some hiccups with touch inputs being the default. It's also much, much easier to install apps from websites, such as their example with Spotify. It opens up a smaller install window that should make it a breeze, and make it much faster to install new apps.

Not to mention the new store-front is finally getting more apps from major providers as well, which should prompt more and more developers to publish there as well. PWAs get better integration into Windows, but I hope that doesn't become an excuse to developers to make non-native or piss-poor apps more than they already do with solutions like Electron.

The Windows Graveyard

A good chunk of things were removed from both Windows and Microsoft syncing. Internet Explorer was gutted, Cortana has been removed from the setup process, S Mode has been kept to the home edition, and a good chunk of arguably useless apps are no longer pre-installed: Wallet, 3D Viewer, OneNote for Windows 10, Paint 3D, and Skype. Microsoft accounts no longer sync your wallpaper and there is no longer a timeline to see things from the past across devices.

I appreciate seeing some of the bloat removed from Windows, making it a much better operating system for everyone (ideally it should just be what you need to get setup for your needs, not everything for every person by default). The task-bar, unfortunately, can no longer be moved from the bottom of the monitor, making it harder for those who have adjusted such for certain situations (I have mine usually at the top of the screen to make it easier to see the clock). Overall though, most everything here are welcome changes.

Improvements for developers

Microsoft decided to poke a bit of fun at Apple as of late. As Apple deals with issues with revenue sharing, Epic Games suit, and more, Microsoft decided to say that they're a platform of choice and flexibility, even mentioning that « developers will also have an option to bring their own or a third party commerce platform in their apps, and if they do so they don't need to pay Microsoft any fee ». This is a nice change to see, as it means more income for indie developers.

Support for new packaging types came too: notably React Native, Java, and PWAs. These are the three, arguably, most popular ways to make Android apps, and should enable more people a quicker path into developing for more platforms. Project Reunion, which is now the App SDK, also means that more apps can look native to Windows.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

With Windows 11, there were changes to the system requirements. First off, no more 32-bit support on Windows. This is a huge change that is ultimately for the better. That's about where the good news for hardware ends. The Home edition of Windows will require a Microsoft account to use, which isn't good for those who prefer to have a lighter experience without all the « bells and whistles ». If you're willing to pay more, however, you'll be able to set-up Windows without an account.

When it can't get worse, it gets ugly. Windows added a requirement for the TPM, or Trusted Platform Module, chip in Windows installations. The TPM chip is meant to securely store the keys used for things like drive encryption and the hashes and keys to ensure Windows hasn't been tampered; a requirement that would ultimately be beneficial to improving the security and privacy of Windows computers. On Intel Macs, the best comparison is with the T1 and T2 chips, the Secure Enclave on iOS and Apple Silicon Macs, or the Titan M in Pixel phones. For some people, this isn't anything new, as Windows has wanted OEMs to add this chip for a while. For others, you'll be getting the official help of: consider buying a new PC. Not to mention that there are far fewer compatible/certified CPUs with Windows: Intel chips have to be 8th generation or newer, AMD has the highest end of the 2nd generation Ryzen chips, and a few Qualcomm chips for fun.

This need for a TPM has worried many, and, as numerous sources have reported, sparked scalping for these chips, causing some modules to go from 25$ to 100$. Microsoft's director of enterprise and OS security, David Weston, has said that most every CPU in the past 5-7 years has a TPM module, which means far fewer people need to be worried about it. Hopefully we'll see the costs of these TPMs go down to make it easier for people who do need them to pick them up.

Conclusion

Overall, I've never been a huge fan of Windows. It's slow, it's got lots of extra crap installed, and it has had an inconsistent design for what feels like years. Windows 11 is more consistent, more performant, and more secure, and for a large number of people: that's great. I'm sure for those who meet the hardware requirements and are already using Windows 10, it'll be a solid upgrade. However, for people like me, who need every bit of performance for things like compilations, renders, and light baking (oh god), Windows 10 might be where you want to stay until a LTSC update.

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