Microsoft is poised to reveal what's next for Windows this Thursday, June 24, and we have good reason to believe it's going to be Windows 11.
Sure, it might not actually be branded Windows 11. There's an outside chance it'll be called Windows Sun Valley, or something completely unexpected. We won't know for sure until tomorrow, but we do have a pretty good idea of what you can expect to see in the next version of Windows.
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Microsoft will reveal it in a special livestream that kicks off tomorrow (June 24th) at 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT/ 4 p.m. BST. You can head over to the company's Windows event page to watch it live, and Microsoft will almost certainly stream it out via the company's YouTube channel.
What to expect from Windows 11
While Microsoft hasn't said much publicly about the event or what to expect, we already have a pretty good idea thanks to a few teases and leaks, most notably the Windows developer build that leaked out earlier this month. While we can't be sure the leaked build is authentic, the fact that Microsoft is targeting it with a DMCA takedown lends it a lot of credence.
Windows 11 branding: While we don't know for sure that the new software will be called Windows 11, it seems awfully likely. The leaked development build we saw earlier this month is full of Windows 11 branding, and during the setup process it offers variations like Windows 11 Pro, Windows 11 for Education, and so on.
However, Microsoft could throw us a curveball and ditch numbers entirely: back when Windows 10 launched the company said it would be "the last version" of its flagship operating system, and some early leaks suggested the next version of Windows would be branded Windows Sun Valley.
Softer, more centered visual design: The most striking change we've seen in the leaked Windows developer build is a visual overhaul that makes the entire operating system look a little more approachable and touch-friendly.
For example, that old standby the Start menu has been relocated to the center of the taskbar, though there are customization tools which let you move it back to the left-hand side if you wish. Live tiles have been removed from the Start menu entirely, and in their place is a much simpler array of pinned apps.
A subtle UI overhaul gives the top layer of Windows a new look, with rounded corners and new icons for old standbys like the Recycle Bin. However, that new look appears to be skin-deep; when you drill down past the new UI into individual settings menus in the leaked Windows developer build, you'll see the same austere, sharp-edged interfaces that have been the bedrock of the operating system since Windows 95.
We also expect to see more obvious and granular controls for arranging windows on your screen. When you maximize a window you will have the option to arrange it side-by-side with another window or as one of three or four windows arranged in an on-screen grid, for example.
New features: We expect a number of new features to arrive with the next version of Windows. The leaked developer build includes a few, including a new start-up sound, a new logo, and a new "Widgets" feature that appears to be an improved version of the Widgets first introduced with Windows Vista, and later sidelined.
We also expect to see new features added to Windows that make it easier to use on mobile and touch-friendly devices, including an improved on-screen keyboard and a battery usage graph in the Settings app (seen in a leaked image from 2020) to make life easier for those using Windows on laptops and tablets.
A new Microsoft Store: We also expect to see some big changes coming to the Microsoft Store alongside the release of Windows 11, as Microsoft has reportedly been working on overhauling the storefront for some time. Most notably, we expect a big visual overhaul for customers that includes a new layout and new icons.
We also expect Microsoft to try and entice more developers into selling their wares in the Microsoft Store by (among other things) allowing devs to submit Win32 applications to the store, rather than having to waste time packaging their work as MSIX files. This could bring a more exciting array of products to the store, especially when you recall that Microsoft changed the storefront's default revenue-share back in April to give developers a bigger cut of their earnings (up to 95% for some devs), presumably to tempt more into selling their wares on Microsoft's storefront.
A free upgrade: Based on Microsoft's prior efforts, the next version of Windows will likely be a free upgrade for existing customers -- for a limited time, at least.
You may remember that Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 on September 30, 2014, followed it up with an early technical preview, and launched the final product on July 29, 2015. The company offered Windows 7 and 8 users a path to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, and those free upgrades remained available for years afterwards.
If history repeats itself, we expect Microsoft to reveal Windows 11 tomorrow and announce a technical preview pretty soon afterwards, with a clear path for Windows 10 users to upgrade to the next version of Windows for free.
Of course, we won't know for sure until Microsoft's big Windows shindig kicks off tomorrow, June 24. We've already published a good rundown of how to watch the Windows 11 event and plan to be live-blogging the event as it happens, so stay tuned!