Microsoft Announces Windows 11: New UI, Productivity and Gaming Features

Windows 11
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Windows 11 is official.

Microsoft announced the new operating system today during a live streamed event. The new version of Windows features some changes to aesthetics and a more touch-friendly design.

The new OS will begin shipping this holiday season and will start shipping Insider Builds next week. Windows 11 will be a free upgrade for Windows 10 users as long as they hit the minimum system requirements.

Chief product officer Panos Panay called it "the Windows that brings you closer to the things you love."

Windows 11 (see Windows 11: Everything You Need to Know) features a redesigned Start menu and button that are placed in the center of the taskbar. The menu acts more like a launcher, similar to what was first shown in early images and demos of Windows 10X. (Windows 10X was eventually cancelled and folded into this project).

"Windows has always stood for sovereignty for creators and agency for consumers..." Nadella said. "With Windows 11, we have a renewed sense of Windows' role in the world." He positioned the new OS as an open system, the opposite of Apple's walled garden in an attempt to court developers.

"We're building for the next decade and beyond."

Over roughly 45 minutes, Microsoft showed off some new productivity features, gaming upgrades and some major changes to its Store.

Productivity on Windows 11

Windows 11

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Snap Groups is a new feature, that keeps your Windows in place while docking and undocking. Carmen Zlateff, parter director of Windows User Experience announced the change.

Zlateff also showed off new desktops experiences, which can have alternate wallpapers for better separation.

Additionally, Teams will be integrated directly into Windows for easier video calling.

Panay showed off Widgets, a feed "powered by AI" to show you weather, news, sports scores and other features. Widgets will let you pick topics you're interested in, including local news, and even tip creators that show up in it.

Product Marketing Lead Phillip McClure showed off the touch experience, including larger touch targets, new visual cues, gestures and animations that make tablet mode better. The gestures are the same ones from Windows trackpads.

Additionally, Windows 11 will include haptics to work with styli. There's also a new keyboard that looks more like one from a phone, which can be used with a single hand and with swipe gestures. McClure also promised improvements to voice typing, which automatically punctuates for you.

Gaming on Windows 11

Sarah Bond, corporate vice president of Xbox, announced new features for gaming in Windows 11.

"Hundreds of millions of people game on Windows," Bond said, promising the "best PC gaming experience yet."

Windows 11 will use Auto HDR to automatically improve colors and implement high dynamic range to increase fidelity. Over 1,000 games will automatically receive the enhancement on devices that include HDR.

Auto HDR

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Bond also said Direct Storage, which started on the Xbox Series X and S, will come with Windows 11, for far faster loading for PC games. She also pushed Game Pass, which is currently available on Windows 10, as one of the best ways to play on Windows 11.  

Microsoft Store

Microsoft is debuting a new store, which Panay said is faster and more secure. It will include PWA, Win32 and UWP.

"We also want to help you build your business," Panay said. You can use Microsoft's commerce engine with revenue share, or developers can keep 100% if they have their own engines. 

Microsoft Store

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Android apps will also be available in the Amazon App Store within the Windows Store, and can be snapped just like other Windows apps.


Panay said Intel, AMD and Qualcomm are designing silicon that will work with Windows 11. He specifically highlighted 11th Gen Intel processors, but no new hardware was announced.

"What's incredible about this open hardware ecosystem is that it brings you choice," Panay said. "Go out today and get your Windows 11 ready PC."

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Andrew E. Freedman

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Threads @FreedmanAE and Mastodon

  • Barty1884
  • punkncat
    Barty1884 said:

    Didn't they try this with 8? This feels like a reworked 8 release...
  • Makaveli
    For those having issues with the MS link

    The stream is fine on Facebook and twitter links below

  • Heat_Fan89
    You can usually figure out Microsoft's trial balloons. Now it becomes obvious why the Feed icon was placed on the Windows 10 taskbar after the May update. Still no breaking super advanced stuff other than just some changes to keep users from getting bored with Windows 10. As a gamer the XBOX feature is welcomed. That's one area where Microsoft is advancing their OS. The integration between Windows and the XBOX platform has no rivals.
  • everettfsargent
    I would not call this ... polishing a turd ... simply because polishing a turd is easier. This is much more like unpolishing a polished turd. Although I would never call Windows 10 an unpolished turd.

    I 8 these things, all flash and no form. Oh and speak softly and have neutral colors throughout.
  • zesun
    Heat_Fan89 said:
    The integration between Windows and the XBOX platform has no rivals.
    I really hope the xbox app is better. Because it sucks right now. Also, it has so much potential for failure... countless times i have been stuck with games i can't delete. And i can't get permissions of the folder/files. Had to format my drive. Lol. It's terrible! Much rather just use steam. And just like steam, many of the other things ms integrate in windows, separate applications do much better!

    I don't know what to think of win 11. Nothing really shined or told me why they had to name it 11.
  • Cybrmge
    What's up with the guy wearing Jordans getting all emotional about using windows? Very weird for an OS presentation. Also looks very bloated and GPU heavy, with even more "features" added that people won't want. Hard pass on this Microsoft. Make an OS that is lightweight and gets the <Mod Edit> out of the way so people can game or do what they want without being tracked or having a bunch of crap running in the background.
  • everettfsargent
    These things go to 11?
  • RealBeast
    I was hoping for more of a performance enhancement than a new theme pack, which is pretty much what it looks to be.
  • revodo
    Hey, after waiting 36 years for some type of consistent, fluid, and actually pleasant UI design in Windows, I'm all for the redesign.

    inb4 "Windows 7 was all that".

    No, it wasn't. Arguably better than Vista, lots better than XP and 8, but it was nowhere near a clean, consistent interface.