Windows 11 just launched and as someone who uses both Macs and PCs, I was curious about how Microsoft's software update would be, and what's there. Microsoft had a whole event this summer to get the word out about Windows 11, and the energy surrounding Windows 11 system requirements created such a fervor that it felt like Windows 11 could be a game-changer. Or at least people believed it was that important.
Then I saw all the bright pretty colors of Windows 11, its rounded edges and opaque panels. It felt Mac-like.
And since I expect to need a new computer soon, a small, small part of me was hoping that Windows 11 could be that new home for all of my computing. Buying both a new gaming PC and a MacBook Pro 2021 is going to require a lot of money. Even though I've used a Mac for my adult life, I do kinda want to go all in on Windows — I use it to stream games that aren't available for the Mac, which makes me wonder why I'm sticking with the Mac.
- Windows 11 vs Windows 10: Here's what's new
- Windows 11-ready laptops: Here's our full list, from Acer to Samsung
Looking at Windows 11, I was reminded about that "why," over and over again. So, I put together a list of the top five reasons that Windows 11 isn't doing it for me. This list could be really long (the way to write an em-dash "—" is still absurd on Windows, though it's easy on a Mac), but I thought I should keep my reasons to the important things tied to (or relevant for) Windows 11.
iPhone integration matters more than Android apps
This, at the core of it all, is a major reason for why Microsoft probably isn't going to lure me over. I'm an iPhone user (I tried to use Android, it didn't click), and the Your Phone app just does nothing for me. It's just for Androids, and I get it. Because of all the restrictions and limitations of Apple's software and hardware, Microsoft can't get into the iPhone. I didn't expect Microsoft to crack that code, though — so don't take this as me being disappointed.
But there's no such limitation on Mac-iPhone integration, which lets me reply to text messages from a MacBook, or run FaceTime calls on an iMac. And that kind of nimbleness, where you can leave the phone charging, and stay productive with your Mac, is what I love. And I love that Android users will get a little of that with the Your Phone app. I love that for them. Seriously.
But I also just don't care at all about the Android apps coming to the PC in Windows 11 (not that they're present at launch). This is partially because I'm an iPhone user and would rather those apps be made available (more on that below).
It's also because Windows 11 is getting the least appealing spin-off of the Google Play Store (and its 3.5 million apps) in the form of the Amazon Appstore's 500,000-ish apps. This means you don't get any Google apps, including Gmail or YouTube, which are glaring exceptions for those of us who think about Android being Google's world.
Can it be fixed? Not sure, but getting the real Google Play Store integrated with Windows would be a start.
Widgets are not it (yet)
Widgets are here in Windows 11, and I'm really disappointed with the first batch. The only included calendars widget is Outlook Calendar, which (you guessed it) requires you to use Outlook. There's no way Microsoft could have made a widget that supported its own Calendars app, too? Windows 11 needs third-party widgets and it needs them badly.
The only other included widgets that piqued my interest were Weather, To Do (I've got my own preferred productivity app, but this is a nice touch) and Entertainment. The other apps, such as Watchlist Stocks, Sports, Esports (LOL), Traffic and Photos didn't do much for me, and the so-called "Entertainment" app is merely a very basic, bland and not-at-all recent set of recommendations for what to watch. (It's not very tailored to my interests — I have done nothing to suggest I'd want to watch Trolls World Tour).
Then there's the section under the Widgets, which appears to be a holdover from something else. It's a series of news items that, were they shared on Twitter, would generate a series of dismissive replies. Stories like "Amal Clooney Wore a Gorgeous Cutout Dress with George for 'The Tender Bar' Premiere," "BREAKING: Starting defensive lineman will miss the remainder of the season," and "Bindi Irwin Shares Sunny Snapshots of 'Princess' Grace, 6 Months, Smiling with Tongue Out."
I try to do my best to avoid this chuff: in the "followed interests" section on Microsoft's MSN site, I've only checked off TV, Movies, Music and Coronavirus. But still I get served chum like the above.
How to fix it: More widgets, less fluffy news.
The Apple third party apps I want aren’t on Windows
There's a lot of good being done in the Windows store, the app store inside of Windows. It's being opened up to third party sellers, such Epic Games (whose spat with Apple led to Fortnite getting kicked off Apple devices.)
But this isn't really a thing I care about a whole lot for me, personally. My favorite apps, such as the productivity-focused Due reminder app, Deliveries for tracking packages, the excellent Pixelmator image editor and the Overcast podcatcher aren't in the Windows store. That's not a knock against Windows, except that the developers in question don't make Windows versions of their apps.
How to fix it: I don't know if Microsoft can get those developers to build Windows 11 apps, but that would go a long way for me.
I don’t care about Teams
Microsoft's rebranding of itself as a services company is a bit much if you ask me, because they're really hoping that people care about Microsoft Teams — a service that we as individuals don't have much control over if we use at work or not.
Microsoft seems so proud of Teams that it wants us to make it and the Teams Chat app the crux of all of our messaging. "Forget Skype, messages and everything else," Microsoft seems to say "You should just use Teams!"
But what if I like what I was using before? I rely on Discord, and that doesn't really seem to have an integration (it and Teams Chat seem to be two whole separate worlds, so it probably won't work like this). Shouldn't I be able to easily remove the Teams Chat app Microsoft jammed into the Task Bar?
At first, it doesn't seem like you can, as there's no option to un-pin it when you right-click the Teams/Chat app (which appears when you right click other apps on that area). My colleague Alex Wawro explained how to do it, though. Open the Settings app, select Personalization and select Taskbar. Then, turn the switch next to Chat to the Off position. That's a little too much work if you ask me, and I bet many people will not poke around settings and find this. Instead, they'll wind up having Microsoft bully them into using this app or letting it take up space.
How to fix it: Make Teams more obviously optional.
Edge still gets pushed way too hard
One of the many holdovers from Windows 10 is that Edge is still the baked-in default web browser for when you do anything within Windows. Search the web in the Start Menu or in Widgets? You're opening in Edge. It's a really weird thing for Microsoft to force, especially when you can set Chrome as your default web browser.
Speaking of which, Windows 11 makes it harder than ever to change your default web browser. Microsoft took the old method — look for "Web browser" in the Default apps section of System Preferences — and threw it out because ... it was too easy? I'm not sure why Microsoft did this, but now you need to open the same Default apps section, but scroll down through a list of applications to find the browser you want to use. For me, because of requirements at work, that's Chrome.
Once I click through Chrome, I have to change every single web page format that exists: .htm, .html, .pdf, .shtml, .svg, .webp, .xht, .xhtml, FTP, HTTP, HTTPS and many more.
I get the .pdf option but ... what was wrong with just one "web browser" setting? Did someone actually say they needed to open .html links and HTTP links in different applications?
How to fix it: Go back to Windows 10's default web browser setting — and let that setting apply to actions in the Start Menu too.
Windows 11 outlook
I can't tell if Microsoft will ever make the Windows that gets me, a Mac user, to switch full-time. Breaking the padlocks on the gate to the iPhone is probably an ask too far, but if it could pull in app developers who aren't even on Windows, make Widgets worth a damn and stop pushing Teams and Edge so damn hard?
Maybe I would be able to get away with one new computer — and not two — this year.