Microsoft offered a broad “Vacation 2021” release date when announced Windows 11, in June. Of course, he did not specify precisely what holiday. Perhaps the company was targeting World Teachers’ Day, a late Sukkot, or a very early Halloween. After strongly hinting at a late October release a few months ago (some are pointing to 20), the company announced this morning that the operating system will arrive on October 5.
The date is undoubtedly on the earlier side of Microsoft’s release window. The first major release since 2015 will be available as a free update to users with an eligible PC running Windows 10. October 5 will also see the availability of the first systems shipping with Windows 11 preloaded.
Frederic wrote the first preview build when it became available through the Windows Insider dev channel. At the time, he noted, “This is definitely more than just another biannual Windows 10 update with some minor UI changes.”
In fact, the company adequately offers a 11 point blog post highlighting the main changes to come in the October update. The first, and the most immediately apparent, is one that has been around since the first preview. The OS design has been updated for a cleaner feel every time.
That includes new desktop, group, and snap layouts designed to offer a more organized approach to multitasking. Several of the company’s online services have been more deeply integrated into the operating system. Microsoft 365 is built into the Start menu, providing access to recently viewed files for further cross-platform integration. Teams, meanwhile, have been added to the taskbar (Microsoft Really wants me to use Teams, folks). You’ll also find widgets there, with quick access to information like news, weather, sports, and stocks.
There are a variety of accessibility updates. On an extensive post from July, Microsoft highlights those updates, noting, “Accessible technology is a critical building block that can unlock opportunity in all sectors of society. A more accessible Windows experience has the power to help address the “disability gap,” to contribute to more education and employment opportunities for people with disabilities around the world.
The Microsoft Store also received a design update, and the company promised more access for independent developers to create new tools for the operating system. The new version of Windows continues to focus on desktop gaming, with features like DirectX12 Ultimate, DirectStorage, and Auto HDR.
There has been some confusion around what, precisely, this all means for unsupported machines lately, as well as, frankly, what machines qualify as compatible. Was reported earlier this week that systems that do not fall within Microsoft’s parameters will not get Windows Update when the new operating system is installed manually. Obviously, that’s a huge bummer, since the utility delivers security patches and other updates.
“The free upgrade to Windows 11 begins October 5 and will be phased and measured with a focus on quality,” the company writes in this morning’s post. “After the tremendous Windows 10 learnings, we want to make sure we give you the best possible experience. That means new eligible devices will be offered the update first. The update will then be rolled out over time to devices on the market based on intelligence models that consider hardware eligibility, reliability metrics, device age, and other factors that affect the update experience. “
The company says it expects all qualified machines to be offered the upgrade sometime in mid-2022. For those systems that are not up-to-date, Microsoft says it will continue to support Windows 10 until October 14, 2025.