- Windows 11 is designed to make PCs work more consistently in both laptop and tablet mode.
- It feels like what Microsoft tried and failed to achieve with Windows 8 in 2012.
- Windows 11 was announced on Thursday and launches at the end of 2021.
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Microsoft unveiled its vision to bridge the gap between laptops and tablets when it previewed Windows 8 back in 2011. But Windows 11, which the company revealed on Thursday and will launch this holiday season, is its most promising attempt at this ambition yet.
Based on Microsoft's presentation, Windows 11 has the potential to make PCs work much better as tablets without sacrificing their functionality as laptops, finally bringing Microsoft's decade-old vision to fruition.
To understand why this matters, it's important to remember where Windows 8 went wrong. The update, which launched in 2012, was meant to make Windows feel more modern at a time when many believed tablets threatened to make laptops irrelevant.
It replaced the traditional desktop operating system – including the beloved Start button and menu – with touch-friendly tiles, a new Start screen, and support for new swiping gestures. The problem, however, was that the learning curve was too steep. Rather than introducing gradual changes to make Windows more mobile-friendly over time, it forced users to completely re-learn how to use a Windows computer all at once.
Microsoft remedied this in 2015 with Windows 10, which walked back its aggressive mobile-first strategy by bringing back the Start menu and making other changes that improved the desktop experience.
Windows 10 devices with touchscreens and flexible designs can already be used as tablets, but doing so doesn't always feel as consistent or smooth as it should.
Microsoft is addressing these aspects and more with Windows 11, feels like it could finally strike the right balance between mobile and desktop that the company has been aiming for all along. It's striving to achieve the opposite effect of Windows 8; rather than requiring you to get used to the software, the operating system should effortlessly adapt to your needs.
With Windows 11, the interface for laptop and tablet modes is essentially the same, unlike Windows 10. Bigger on-screen buttons should also make managing windows in tablet mode easier in Windows 11. The new touch keyboard is much smaller and has moved to the corner of the display so that it's easier to type with one hand as we do on our phones.
Windows 11 will also have a new and more refined feed of widgets surfacing news and the weather that feels much more like the ones on our smartphones, similar to Apple's Today view for the iPhone. The swipe gestures also match the ones you would use to navigate Windows 11 on a touchpad, bringing even more consistency between laptop and tablet mode.
If these changes aren't enough to convince you that Microsoft is serious about making PCs more mobile-friendly, the company also announced that Android apps will work on Windows 11. Doing so will keep Microsoft competitive with Apple and Google, both of which have already brought mobile apps to their respective macOS and Chrome OS operating systems.
But above all else, Windows 11 feels like it's coming at the right moment. Windows 8 was in some ways ahead of its time since it launched long before most people cared about having a laptop that could double as a tablet. People simply weren't using computers in that way yet, so how could Microsoft possibly understand what people wanted from a hybrid operating system? That question has finally been answered in 2021, and it shows in Microsoft's plans for Windows 11.