Each version of Windows has emphasized different traits and ideas, and with that in mind, it could be said to have a personality. In several cases – notably Windows 7 and Windows 10 – one could rightly argue that the predominant theme of the then-new operating system was “All the improvements under the hood of Vista / Windows 8 that you liked, without the user interface you like has “read loathed.”
As far as Windows 11 has an identity, it is an exclusive one. The prevailing discussion of Windows 11 since Microsoft’s announcement has centered on who can and can’t run the operating system. The gap between announcement and market launch is also significantly shorter than in previous cycles; The typical gap between the announcement of an operating system and its introduction is a year or more. Microsoft announced Windows 11 in June and will ship it in October.
Microsoft has certainly corrected the course beforehand; Windows 10’s user interface was partly an excuse for Windows 8. But Windows 11 goes further than a user interface overhaul. Windows 11 rejects all of Windows 10’s self-justification and related arguments from Microsoft in 2014 and 2015 about what the future of the PC ecosystem was like.
When Microsoft announced Windows 10, it stated that the operating system would be deployed on as much hardware as possible and as widely as possible. The minimum operating system requirements would remain largely the same. Most, if not all, systems running Windows 7 could be upgraded to Windows 10 automatically.
According to Microsoft, Windows 10 was the last version of Windows. The company has repeatedly pointed out this point in its marketing strategy. Windows 10 was the beginning of Windows-as-a-Service and the effective end of the old software distribution method. In the future, operating system updates would arrive seamlessly and automatically. You don’t have to worry which version of Windows you are using as they are all using the same version. You don’t have to worry about operating system compatibility in the future, because if your device ran Windows 10, it would run Windows 10 too.
Google and Apple are delivering updates in a similar fashion, but neither company has ever indicated that it will bring the “last” version of Android or iOS to market in any way, shape, or form. Microsoft leaned hard on that point. The various operating system releases Microsoft has made over the years each have their own end-support date, and feed the narrative that Windows 10 updates would come in as an ongoing process over the long term rather than as individual events.
I’m sure there were people who didn’t believe that Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows. Not me. But Microsoft seemed to the hell to do it, depending on how much effort the company put into this news. Windows 10 was the last version of Windows. Windows 10 could run on anything. The implicit future of computing, therefore, was one in which a device that could run Windows 10 today could be widely assumed to be capable of running the latest version of Windows until it physically died.
This may have been bad messaging, but it’s the message Microsoft pushed and set Microsoft’s expectation. The company was so determined to push people to Windows 10 that it deployed an application that it later admitted was actually malware to force people to switch. Microsoft wanted people to use Windows 10.
But Windows11? Not as much. Windows 11 now seems to come with a disclaimer to ensure you aren’t trying to run it on the wrong hardware.
There is nothing new in the fact that operating systems only run on relatively new hardware. The hardware requirements of Windows 95 were much stricter than those of Windows 3.1. Windows XP required significantly more horsepower than Windows 95. There was a time when the need to upgrade hardware to run software was expected and accepted, if never loved.
Microsoft changed the market expectation that new operating systems require new hardware by maintaining and emphasizing compatibility with old devices. Windows 10 runs on devices that were running Windows Vista. Children born the year Vista launched entered or are about to enter high school [and…you just gave your editor a heart attack. -Ed]. Windows 11 does not provide a rationale for this change and does not include any features that require it, except when Microsoft requests it.
Microsoft didn’t do the job to justify the cutoff to consumers
I’m not going to say it’s impossible for Microsoft to sell security as a reason to upgrade their own PC, but it’s not easy. “Install this software update and your PC won’t crash again” is a message that practically sells itself. “Install this software update so that 99 percent of the time security attacks that you don’t deal with happen even less” it isn’t.
The problem with such a severe interruption in operating system support like Microsoft is that it sends two conflicting messages. On the one hand, Microsoft claims that PCs bought just three years ago are in some ways unsafe and need to be replaced. On the other hand, there is promise to keep Windows 10 support through 2025.
Microsoft claims that TPM support makes PCs more secure, but cannot identify any well-known critical threats that TPM would have stopped. A concrete advantage that is achieved with TPM support cannot be formulated, since the support of a TPM module cannot be compared with an additional CPU core or a faster graphics card. Invisible protection is not perceived in the same way as introducing new features or solving larger problems. The fact that security upgrades are hard to market doesn’t make them any less important, but it would be a lot easier if Microsoft hadn’t spent six years telling people they could run Windows on virtually anything they wanted .
Microsoft cannot claim that Windows 10 machines are exposed to a wide variety of security threats without indicting its own product as it is the maker of Windows. It cannot build on the dynamics of a new API start like DirectX 12 because there are none. Specific functions such as DirectStorage are not only found in Windows 11. The only thing left is trying to sell people security without real security problems.
When Microsoft launched Windows 10, it tore the doors open as wide as possible and invited anyone with silicon who could still boot to join the eternal Windows 10 party, where updates were seamless, invisible and without you yourself would take care of it. In Windows 11, the script was turned upside down. Now you need to worry about whether your PC supports a hardware standard that enthusiasts might not be using so that you can download a new version of an operating system that Microsoft previously swore it didn’t need to be updated that way.
The larger Windows-as-a-Service model is not going to go away – the fact that Windows 11 is advertising is evidence of that – but Microsoft has apparently abandoned the idea that the entire PC ecosystem is a single version of the should use windows. Given that this concept was central to Windows 10, it’s a pretty surprising rejection of a strategy the company had previously placed at the center of its overall image. In 2015, the operating system was tailored to run on your hardware no matter how much that hardware sucked. By 2021, your hardware should be tailored to the operating system. It’s fair to note that this is more or less a return to the historic status quo, but Microsoft is the company that has been telling people for years that the old status quo no longer applies.