Microsoft has officially unveiled Windows 11, the next major version of the company’s operating system for desktop, laptop, and tablet computers. It will be available as a free upgrade for compatible Windows 10 PCs by the 2021 holiday season.

You can check to see if your computer is eligible by downloading the compatibility checker from the Windows 11 website, but with minimum system requirements including a 1 GHz dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 720p display, odds are that most Windows PCs shipped in the past few years should qualify.

As expected, many of the biggest changes from Windows 10 are cosmetic – the user interface has received a major visual refresh with rounded corners, a taskbar that’s in the center by default (although it can be moved), and support for a new type of widgets that slide out when you want to view your feed. But Microsoft is also promising improved performance, reduced power consumption for better battery life, and some features that could make multitasking easier, make it easier to use Windows on touchscreen devices, and more. Windows 11 will also include native support for running Android apps.

From a performance standpoint, Microsoft says Windows Updates will be 40% smaller and they’ll download in the background for a more seamless update experience. Windows Hello face and fingerprint recognition works more quickly. PCs wake from sleep faster. And the company promises faster web browsing whether you’re using its Edge web browser or third-party browsers.

And from a usability standpoint, Microsoft is introducing a major update to the way window snapping works, bringing support for quickly arranging applications on your screen or across multiple displays. You can also save Snap Groups, allowing you to quickly relaunch a set of apps from the taskbar. And if you have a series of windows running on an external display, when you disconnect a laptop from that screen those windows will minimize to a Snap Group and they’ll automatically be restored when you plug your notebook back into your display.

Microsoft Teams is now baked into Windows, with a Chat icon in the taskbar that you can use to make text, voice, or video calls to anyone in your network no matter whether they’re using a PC or a mobile device running Android or iOS.

And gaming updates include support for Auto HDR for improved color and DirecStorage, which can load gaming assets from an SSD directly to the GPU without hogging CPU resources. Xbox Game Pass is also built into the Windows 11 Xbox gaming app, but you’ll still need a paid subscription to take advantage of it.

Here are the some of the key details revealed during updates from Microsoft’s Windows 11 launch announcement.

The new Microsoft Store also a “pop-up” store experience that will appear when you click a link on the web to install an app that’s available from the Microsoft Store.

Windows 11 will be available to the general public later this year, but preview builds will begin rolling out to members of the Windows Insider Preview program this summer.

Microsoft notes that rather than rolling out two major updates a year the way it has for Windows 10 in recent years, the company is moving to an annual release schedule, and each build will be supported for 24 months (for Home and Pro editions) or 36 months (for Enterprise and Education editions), which could help individuals or businesses that may not be comfortable installing updates right away.

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  1. Devices like the Aya Neo, One Xplayer, GPD Win, etc, will really benefit from these new touch features, especially the improved touch keyboard and voice typing. Not to mention the new gaming features, like DirectStorage.

  2. I would upgrade, even pay for upgrading if gaming performance is increased. Gaming is the only reason I have Windows as a dual boot.