Windows 11 has been available as a Preview Build for a couple of weeks now, giving those who are willing to put up with the quirks of beta software a chance to play around with what Microsoft has in store for us.
Before I get into my thoughts on the Windows 11 update, it’s probably best to start by saying I have barely ever used a Windows PC in my life.
I grew up with an iMac at home, Macs at school and have always used a Mac for work. Windows feels alien to me and I’m completely out of my comfort zone whenever a Windows laptop replaces a MacBook or Chromebook on my desk.
And yet, after spending a few weeks with the new software running on a Huawei MateBook X Pro I feel right at home. There’s a pretty big reason for this in my opinion – Windows 11 has been designed to feel like a smartphone.
Take the new centrally-located Start menu for instance. Pop this open and it’s basically just an app launcher, one that wouldn’t look out of place on any number of the best Android phones around. You’ve got your app icons, recommended content brought to the front and a search bar all in one handy spot.
What feels even more like it has been plucked directly from a phone is the new widget view, which comes in from the side and highlights other handy information like sport scores, weather and news. This extra homescreen has become commonplace on both iOS and Android as a panel to aggregate tidbits from apps without getting in the way on the main homescreen.
Bringing this to Windows makes complete sense and even though we’re still a few months away from a full launch, it has become a place a tend to check whenever I boot the laptop up.
Then, of course, there’s the big one. Windows 11 supports actual Android apps downloaded and installed through the Amazon App Store. Microsoft has integrated this into the main Windows Store and even though the functionality is not live yet, it looks pretty slick from the demos I have seen.
Now, I am not completely sold that Android apps will be a revelation for Windows 11, especially if they’re as bad as iOS apps on Mac – but it will certainly help in some situations.
Some apps and services, often those around home automation, are just not available on Windows or anywhere either than on a phone. Having these easily accessible on my laptop that I can use without reaching for my phone will be very welcome.
I also feel Windows 11 looks a little more like a phone operating system. Buttons are a little bigger and everything is a little more rounded.
Windows 11 has come at the end of a very odd 18 month period and Microsoft themselves said years ago there would never be a new version of Windows after 10. But the pandemic has changed how we use tech, how much we rely on it and what we want from it. Windows 11 has been born out of this new working from home period.
With phones becoming the main piece of tech most of us use every day it only makes sense to take some inspiration from how they work when building software for other devices – and that feels like exactly what Microsoft has done here.