Today, Microsoft have started offering Windows 11 version 23H2 as an optional update. This includes all the new AI features that rolled out to users in 22H2.
What’s in Windows 11 23H2?
The new features included in this update being all the new AI features including Windows Copilot which is now pinned to your Taskbar by default. You also get all the new inbox updates including AI powered additions to the Snipping Tool, Paint, and Quick Settings.
How to get Windows 11 23H2 update
Since this is an optional update, you need to head over to Settings-> Windows Update and ensure that the “Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available” toggle is set to on.
You can the check for updates and should see “Windows 11, version 23H2” appear in your Windows Update downloads list for download.
If you are already running Windows 11 22H2, this update may not be available straight way but Microsoft will he making this available shortly.
Windows 11 release rings and support cycles
Microsoft has a 6 monthly core version update model for Windows. This means that the support cycle for Windows 11 version 23H2 will be supported for 24 months starting November 1 for Home and Professional users, and 36 months organisations running Enterprise and Education versions of Windows 11.
To find out more about the new features included in 22H2 and 23H2 check out my post below.
Microsoft’s AI infused update is now rolling out for the masses. The update started rolling out last Tuesday and is the lastest next major feature update for Windows 11. It is bundled as part of the October’s security release for all Windows 11 users.
This update (known as Moment 4 update) is far more than security updates and includes lots of improvements and big new features to take advantage of that include a new File Explorer design, Copilot for Windows (a new AI assistant). There are also lots of improvements to the Taskbar, and notable in-box app updates as well including notepad and paint.
Here’s a quick rundown of the key new things and changes.
Major AI related stuff
Windows Copilot (incorporating Bing Chat)
AI-powered file recommendations in both File Explorer and Start
A new AI Hub for “AI-powered apps” in the Microsoft Store
Changes to desktop and taskbar
A new File Explorer design with more modern interfaces plus a new “Gallery feature”
System wide ability to Ink directly into text boxes
Taskbar app labels and other improvements
HDR desktop wallpaper support
New Windows Spotlight wallpaper UI
Native support for more archive file formats such as .RAR
New sound output menu
Native RGB peripheral controls
New features and UI changes
New account recommendations in Start and Settings
A new revamped Settings homepage
Inbox app updates
A new cloud-based backup and restore feature built in to Windows
Snipping Tool improvements including OCR text and ability redact / mask sensitive information
Improvements to Notepad including new auto save feature
When is Windows 10 end of life?
As a reminder to those still on Windows 10, this will go end of support on October 14, 2025 meaning now more feature or security updates…
Microsoft says that “Every Windows product has a lifecycle. The lifecycle begins when a product is released and ends when it’s no longer supported. Knowing key dates in this lifecycle helps you make informed decisions about when to update, upgrade or make other changes to your software.”
Windows 11 is now on over half a billion devices as of October 2023 according to Microsoft.
Microsoft hosted a live Surface and AI event on Thursday 21st September where they announced a lot of new and exciting features and products across its various platforms and services. In this blog post, I have tried to summarise the most notable ones and explain how they might benefit you and your organisation.
Disclaimer (and product plug) - Since this was an AI event in whole, I also want to state that other than some slight tweaks, this blog post was written by Bing Enterprise Chat - Microsoft Designer created the image. The whole thing took less that 10 minutes.
Copilot: Your AI Assistant at Work and Beyond
Copilot is a new feature that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help you with various tasks, such as drafting emails, summarizing texts, creating images, and more. You can access Copilot from Windows 11, Microsoft 365, Edge, and Bing, and chat with it in natural language. Copilot will understand your intent and provide relevant assistance based on the context and your data.
For example, you can ask Copilot to draft an email for you with a specific tone, or to generate a graphic art based on your description. You can also use Copilot to answer questions, troubleshoot your PC, control your settings, and access recommendations. Copilot is designed to save you time, reduce your cognitive load, and ignite your creativity.
Copilot will be generally available for enterprise customers on November 1st, and for a select group of consumers and small business customers as part of the Early Access Program (EAP). It will initially be limited to three hundred licenses and will cost $30 per user per month.
Windows 11: The Most Powerful and Personal Windows Ever
Windows 11 is the latest (and IMO best) version of the Microsoft’s desktop operating system that powers millions of devices around the world. Windows 11 offers a fresh and modern design, improved performance, and security, and a more personalised and connected experience. They announced the latest update coming next week (Sept 26th). Some of the new features in Windows 11 will include:
An updated Start menu that gives you quick access to your apps, documents, and settings.
An updated Taskbar that lets you easily switch between multiple instances of each app, hide the time and date, and end tasks with a right-click.
A new Dev Home that helps you set up your development environment by downloading apps, packages, or repositories, connecting to your developer accounts and tools, and accessing experimental features in WSL.
A new Dev Drive that provides a fast and secure storage volume for developers, with a file system that delivers both performance and security.
A new WinGet Configuration that simplifies the setup process for developers by reducing it to a single command.
New Gallery in File Explorer that makes it easy to access your photo collection across all your devices.
A new Snipping Tool that lets you record your screen with audio and mic support, copy and redact text from a screenshot, and edit your images with Paint.
A new Photos app that has new editing capabilities to achieve stylish background blur effects and makes it easier to find specific images backed up in OneDrive.
Updated Narrator that uses natural human voices in new languages, and lets you use voice access to log in to your PC and access other areas on the lock screen.
Refreshed Notepad app that automatically saves your session state, allowing you to close Notepad without any interrupting dialogs and then pick up where you left off when you return.
A new Instant Games feature that lets you play your favorite casual games directly from the Microsoft Store without the need to download and install them on your device.
Windows Copilot – Your Copilot for Windows.
Windows 11 also announced general availability of Windows 365 Boot and Windows 365 Switch, which allow you to log into your Windows 365 Cloud PC as the primary Windows experience on the device or easily switch between the Cloud PC and the local desktop. Windows 365 is a cloud PC service that lets you stream a full Windows experience from anywhere on any device and is fully managed from Intune.
This update will start rolling out as a free update on September 26th.
Surface: The Ultimate Devices for Work and Play
Surface is Microsoft’s line of devices that combine innovative design, powerful performance, and versatile functionality. Surface devices are built to work seamlessly with Windows 11 and Microsoft 365, offering the best productivity and creativity tools for work and play. I am a massive fan of Surface
The new / refreshed Surface devices include:
Surface Laptop Studio 2: The most powerful Surface ever built, with the latest Intel Core processors, NVIDIA Studio tools for creators, touchscreen display, and flexible design with three unique postures.
Surface Laptop Go 3: The lightest and most portable Surface Laptop, with touchscreen display, premium features like an incredible typing experience and a Fingerprint Power Button, and four stylish colours.
Surface Go 4: The baby Surface Pro is this time, available only for corporate and not consumer market (why??), the device is the same dimensions as before but is more repairable (the most repairable and sustainable device int he Surface Fleet). It ditches the 4GB RAM option (good) and brings a higher spec entry level processor. Pricing increases too which is a shame as is ditching consumer market. These are great for school kids.
Surface Hub 3: The ultimate collaboration device for teams, with a large interactive display that runs the Microsoft Teams Rooms experience. Surface Hub 3 pairs seamlessly with Teams-certified devices and supports Hub on day one. There was also an upgrade announced for Surface Hub 2S customers to upgrade to Surface Hub 3,
The new Surface devices are available for pre-ordering now.
Microsoft 365: The World’s Productivity Cloud
Microsoft 365 is a cloud-based subscription service that offers the best productivity apps for work and life. Microsoft 365 includes apps like Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, Teams, Stream, Loop, Clipchamp, and more.
Microsoft 365 Copilot (which will be available from 1st November) is an add-on service at $30 per user per month and provides in-built AI-powered features and services that help you get more done across all your Office 365 apps and services – with support also coming to Microsoft Designer, Loop and Clipchamp and more.
Some of the new features and services in Microsoft 365 include:
Copilot in Outlook, Excel, Word, Loop, OneNote, Stream, and OneDrive: Copilot is integrated into various Microsoft 365 apps to provide AI assistance for different tasks. For example, you can use Copilot in Outlook to draft emails, in Excel to create charts, in Word to summarize documents, in Loop to generate content blocks, in OneNote to take notes, in Stream to transcribe videos, and in OneDrive to find files.
Generative Expand, Fill, and Erase in Microsoft Designer: These features let you manipulate images in creative ways, such as expanding the canvas, filling in missing areas, or erasing unwanted objects. Generative Erase is generally available now, and Generative Fill and Expand are coming soon.
Copilot Lab: Copilot Lab is a feature that lets you learn how to use Copilot effectively, share your favorite prompts with coworkers, and get inspired by other users. Copilot Lab will be accessible to all Microsoft 365 Copilot users once it’s generally available in November.
Mobile Application Management (MAM) for Windows: This feature allows employees to access organisational resources through Microsoft Edge from an unmanaged device, while giving IT the ability to control the conditions under which the resources can be accessed.
Bing and Edge: The Smartest Way to Search and Browse
Bing and Edge are Microsoft’s search engine and web browser that offer a fast, secure, and personalized way to search and browse the web. Bing and Edge use AI to provide relevant information and assistance based on your needs and preferences.
Some of the new features and improvements in Bing and Edge include:
DALL-E 3 in Bing Image Creator and Microsoft Designer integration: Bing Image Creator is a feature that lets you create images from text descriptions using AI. Bing Image Creator is now powered by DALL-E 3, which produces more realistic and detailed images. You can also access Bing Image Creator directly from Microsoft Designer for further editing.
Content Credentials: Content Credentials is a feature that uses cryptographic methods to add an invisible digital watermark to all AI-generated images in Bing. This helps you verify the origin and authenticity of the images. Content Credentials will be supported in Bing Image Creator, Microsoft Designer, and Paint soon.
Bing Chat Enterprise: Bing Chat Enterprise is a feature that lets you chat with Copilot from the Edge mobile app. You can also use multimodal visual search and Image Creator from Bing Chat Enterprise.
Copilot in Microsoft Shopping: Copilot in Microsoft Shopping is a feature that helps you find what you’re looking for more quickly. You can ask for information on an item, and Bing will ask additional questions to learn more. Then, Bing will use that information to provide more tailored recommendations. This feature will be available soon on both PC and mobile.
Personalised Answers: Personalised Answers is a feature that uses your chat history to inform your results. For example, if you’ve used Bing to track your favorite soccer team, next time you’re planning a trip it can proactively tell you if the team is playing in your destination city. Personalized Answers will begin to roll out soon.
Microsoft Advertising: The Best Way to Reach Your Customers
Microsoft Advertising is a platform that helps businesses connect with their customers across the web. Microsoft Advertising offers various solutions and tools to create effective and engaging ads that reach the right audience at the right time.
Some of the new features and improvements in Microsoft Advertising include:
Copilot in the Microsoft Advertising Platform: Copilot in the Microsoft Advertising Platform is a feature that simplifies and enhances every aspect of your experience with the platform. You can use Copilot to create campaigns, get content recommendations, optimize your performance, and more. This feature will be coming soon.
Compare & Decide Ads: Compare & Decide Ads are a new type of ads that pull relevant data of various products or services into a succinct table. This helps users easily evaluate different options based on their criteria. Compare & Decide Ads will be available for cars initially and will be brought to closed beta in early 2024.
These are just some of the highlights from the Microsoft September 2023 News. There are many more features and products that we didn’t cover here, but you can find them on the current web page context. I hope you are excited about these new developments, and I would love to hear what you are most excited about.
New devices? More AI? What is coming to Windows 11 andSurface?
Microsoft has announced that they are holding what they describe as a “special event” on September 21st in New York City. Whilst no formal details have yet been shared (or leaked on social media), the expectation is that this will focus on the unveiling of new Surface products (this usually happens around this time), and we expect there to also be an AI-Infused theme to the announcements.
What will Microsoft announce on the 21st of September?
We don’t know officially, however what I expect is that they will use to announce a refresh of several of their existing Surface devices which didn’t get the “refresh love” last October. As such, I would expect Microsoft to formally announce.
Surface Laptop Studio 2 – since V1 has now been discontinued.
Surface Laptop Go 3– there is lots of hope this will have an ARM variant though from what have heard they are sticking to Intel.
Surface Go 4 – again hoping for an ARM variant this year but think I’ll be disappointed.
I’m not expecting a Surface Pro 10 or Surface Laptop 6 to be annouced at this event and have heard this is more likely in the Spring 2024.
There will no doubt be a big focus on AI this year. Last year, with the announcement of Surface Pro 9 5G (which is ARM powered and I am using today), was the first of its kind to feature on chip AI capabilities which in turn enable a bunch of AI enhanced video and audio enhancements known as Windows Studio Effects. Surface Pro 9 5G’s front-facing camera it’s enhanced and assisted by a Neural Process Unit (NPU), that powers feature such as automatic framing, hardware-based background blurring and sustained eye contact during video calls all of which work much better than the native teams (software) experience – the automatic framing super smooth.
I expect all devices announced from this point forward to leverage this on-chip NPU technology.
Sustainability will be front a centre
I also think that the new devices will be even more sustainable – lower power, longer battery life, lower carbon and more repairable. Microsoft are committed to Surface being 100% recyclable by 2030.
AI will be everywhere
I am also confident that Microsoft will use this opportunity to highlight the recent advancements in AI.
Windows 11 will very soon get Copilot and will leverage unique capabilities in the new Surface portfolio and upcoming updates to Windows 11, Bing Chat Enterprise which leverages the deep integration of OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4 chatbot technology into Microsoft’s Enterprise Search and Bing.
I aslo hear will see demos of third party integration into Windows Copilot from the likes of Spotify, Adobe and others. For Windows Copilot to really make an impact, third-party plugins will be a key part of the Windows Copilot System.
The latest Windows 11 preview build, which is now available to Insiders in the Dev Channel, ships with the first “beta” version of Windows Copilot, which is powered by the same AI technology that Bing Chat uses.
Microsoft initially annouced Windows Copilot last month at Build, and said it would be available in preview from June. In today’s Dev build (23493), Windows Copilot is available to preview, and is expected to roll out to all users later this calendar year.
Using Windows Copilot
Windows Copilot can be launched from the Taskbar and appears as a sidebar app that is docked to the right of your screen. Windows Copilot can do pretty much everything Bing Chat does, but also brings new experiences specifically for Windows 11. Whilst limited in this initial release, Windows Copilot supports commands such as:
“Change to dark mode.”
“Turn on do not disturb.”
“Take a screenshot”
“Summarise this website” (which uses an active tab in Microsoft Edge)
“Write a story about a dog who lives on the moon.”
“Make me a picture of a serene koi fishpond with lily pads
As you can see in the above screenshot, Windows Copilot does not appear on top of apps, but is instead docked to the right side of the screen so that you can use it without it getting in the way. This builds on Windows 11`s ability to work with other apps side-by-side.
As it stands today, the side bar is really just Edge running in a window, rather than a full native Windows App, and it just look just like (since it is) BingChat. Hopefully over time, this will be polished to look a bit more Windows 11 like, rather than just BingChat in a sidebar… But this is an initial release…
Asking a command like “Take a screenshot”, not only gives instructions on how to perform that task, Copilot also opens or performs the relevant task for me. Like I say, these are simple interactions in this initial release.
Feedback: I’d like the option to be able to turn off the confirmation unless Copilot isn’t sure of my command, this would make Copilot more streamlined and mean I dont have to confirm. Maybe show me how to open or peform the action (that is useful) but do the task first!
This initial version of Windows Copilot preview is missing a few of the things that were annouced last month, including third-party application support. There’s also still only a handful of settings and tasks it can perform – the aim of this beta is of course to get user feedback from the Windows Insider community (it’s far from ready for general availability).
Windows Copilot also requires you to be using Microsoft Edge (version 115 or higher). Edge is required since Windows Copilot is an extension of Microsoft Edge and uses WebView2 to display the chat window inside the Windows Copilot sidebar. It’s essentially BingChat currently, but again, it’s early days and this far from ready for mainstream release (it’s an early preview).
Microsoft said that Windows Copilot’s first preview doesn’t have everything shown at their Build conference. It cannot be used to try third-party plugins from OpenAI or modify advanced Windows Settings…. Yet!
They have said that new features or “actions” will be added over time as Microsoft continues to work on the update.
I will be attempting a hands on video with the new Windows Copilot soon. In the meantime, check out more on this in the official Microsoft Blog.
Windows 11 version 22H2, has started it’s rollout and of a huge configuration change, which brings loads of changes. After initially being released to Beta and Dev Windows Insiders, it is now rolling out to the Release Preview Channel with build number 22621.1926.
As well as the usual security updates and performace tweaks, the key changes and updates in tbis update include:
NEW Quick access to your Microsoft account information with notification badging
NEW redesigned in-app voice command help page
NEW ability to authenticate across Microsoft clouds
NEW Live captions languages added
NEW text selection and editing options in voice access commands
NEW VPN status icon in system tray
NEW ability to copy 2FA code information
NEW Multi-app kiosk mode
NEW USB4 settings page
NEW Live Kernal Dump collection in Task Manager
IMPROVEMENTS to Microsoft Defender for Endpoint
IMPROVEMENTS to Voice access with command support for a number of English dialects
IMPROVEMENTS to several simplified Chinese fonts and the IME
IMPROVED System Tray setting for adding seconds on the clock
IMPROVED sharing of files from File Explorer to Outlook
IMPROVED touch keyboard display settings
IMPROVED search within Settings
IMPROVED search suggestions
IMPROVED performance for high report rate mice
CHANGE to PRT SCR button which now opens Snipping Tool by default
CHANGE to the limit for Multitasking tabs to twenty
While not especially surprising given its lack of attention, Microsoft has quietly announced that it “will no longer support Cortana in Windows as a standalone app,” starting in late 2023 as we see the introduction of Windows Copilot which was announced at Microsoft Build last month.
Originally launching in 2014 for Windows and Windows Phone, Cortana was poised to be be the “the next big thing,” – a personal assistant to rival Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, that could look up things, take notes, answer questions and even book things in your diary or read your emails. There was even an iOS and Android app and Cortana also made it’s way into Microsoft Teams as an assistant for video conferencing.
Lack of investment, low consumer demand, and lack of “intelligent speakers” to allow Cortana to be heard. In 2020, Microsoft announced a new vision for Cortana instead positioning it as part of their “vision to deliver transformational AI-powered experiences in Microsoft 365 through Cortana, your personal productivity assistant for Microsoft Office and Teams“.
Earlier this year Microsoft announced they were dropping support for Cortana as an app on Apple iOS and Android and as of late 2023 it the final nail in the coffin will be it evicted from the Windows OS as well. I expect Cortana on Teams Rooms to be replaced by Copilot in Teams at some point though at this moment in time, Microsoft have said that “This change only impacts Cortana in Windows, and your productivity assistant, Cortana, will continue to be available in Outlook mobile, Teams mobile, Microsoft Teams display, and Microsoft Teams rooms.”
This year (and it’s only June), we have see the advent of Bing Chat (which is powered by ChatGPT- 4), voice access for Windows 11, Cortana’s voice functionality has all but now been replaced, as has its future.
Microsoft’s advice for anyone that still uses the Cortana app in Windows is to use something else!!
Introducing Windows Copilot
At Microsoft Build, Microsoft announced that a preview version of Windows Copilot would be coming to Windows Insiders later this June (most likley for the US first, before rolling out to other regions).
Windows Copilot will centralised AI assistance across Windows. In conjunction with Bing Chat and both first and third-party plugins, it will enable people to interface with Windows and Windows apps and services using Copilot chat, rather trying to find what app to use, find settings or work out how to do something.
Yesterday at Microsoft Build, Microsoft announced that is making its’ inevitable step in the future of Windows – making AI an integral part of Windows 11 with Windows Copilot.
In the (to be expected) incredible sizzle video from Microsoft (see below), we saw how the new Windows Copilot tool will live within the Windows sidebar and will be able to offer contextual actions and suggestions based on what’s currently on screen. The user will also be able to ask natural language questions and Copilot will respond much like Bing Chat does.
Microsoft said initial previews of Windows Copilot will begin as soon as next month with Windows Insiders and Windows MVPs.
It will see Microsoft AI becoming front and centre across more than 1.4 billion Windows users in the coming months.
What will Windows Copilot be able to do?
Microsoft say the Copilot will make all Windows users Power Users. It can be used to accomplish tasks within the OS such as turning on or off wireless, changing between light and dark mode, changing projection mode etc, all without having to fumble around trying to find the specific setting. Windows Copilot will also function as a true AI assistant, summarising documents, opening apps, and even sending documents via email. In short – Windows Copilot is the Cortana that never was.
Initially, Windows Copilot will launch as a text-only tool, but in the announcement, Microsoft’s envisions that it will evolving into something you can interact with in other ways, like voice – like Cortana once did #RIPCortana.
Extensibility and Third-Party Apps
As was another common theme at Build2023, Windows Copilot, just like Bing Chat, will also support the same third-party plugins that OpenAI’s ChaptGPT uses. This is huge, since it means that in time, any application developer will be able to easily connect their applications and services to Windows Copilot, which is vital for Windows Copilot to not just be limited to its stock apps and Operating System functions.
This means that users will soon be able use Copilot to perform cross-application tasks. For example, it could review and shorten a document, create a Spotify playlist or share a recent photo to your social media platforms or an email all through a single prompt.
One thing I will say is that by bringing AI front and center of the Windows 11 operating system, (as they will be doing with Office apps and services, I honestly believe this has the potential to totally change the landscape of how we use and interface with our apps and devices.
What about Security and Privacy
We don’t currently know where the AI processing for Windows Copilot take-place will. It is conceivable that this max be a blend of local processing and within Microsoft’s data centres. We also do not yet know if you must be connected/online to the internet for Windows Copilot to work.
From a privacy perspective, we also do not yet have information about whether things like chat history will be preserved, or if there will be a “private mode”. More I am sure will be made available in coming weeks and once it starts being tested with Windows Insiders next month.
I would image also, that the initial Windows Insiders preview will only be available to the US, as is usually the case when these previews first hit.
Microsoft says Windows Copilot will be available in a preview version for Windows 11 users in June. The feature will then roll out some time later this year.
Will it Cost?
We expect this to be “included” within the Windows 11 license for consumers. Less is known about commercial customers at this point.
What do you think?
I’d love to know your thoughts and feedback. What do you think about the flood gates of AI being injected into every application we use. Is it too soon? What are the potential issues?
The Windows Insider program, which launched 9 years ago in 2014, was first used to gain early public feedback on the final stages of the development of Windows 10, is currently undergoing a huge restructure in terms of how testing will be carried out with Windows Insiders including a new “Canary Channel” for testers who want to be at the very forefront of trying the newest Windows features.
Why the changes? Well, Microsoft now update Windows 11 a little at a time (though moment updates). These will consist of collections of quality and feature updates that will be bundled together and released a few times a year. More extensive changes (those which update the kernel and core underlying OS) will be confined to annual “feature updates”. This is expected to now be the foundation for future changes to Windows.
This blog summarises the key changes. For the verbose version, checkout the official Windows Insider Blog
The “new” Insider Rings
The existing “Dev” channel, will soon (this month) be renamed to the “Canary” channel in which the newest and more experimental changes and features will be showcased for feedback.
The Canary channel will enable Windows Insiders to gain the earliest access to new builds with minimal validation and little. This build will not be recommended for daily drivers as users are likley to be testing builds that could be unstable, not working correctly and less tested that’ll those in the current Dev Channel.
These will be builds in the 25000 series.
The Dev Channel
The new “Dev Channel” will now be a half way house between the existing Dev and Beta channels. Insiders in this channel will continue to be able to test early features that may never make it to the stable version (release) of the Windows operating system. They will be better tested, will have the level of documentation and build notes that Insiders have become accustomed too and will be more stable.t
These will be builds in the 23000 series.
Beta and Release Channels
The Beta and Release Preview channels are not currently being changes. The Beta channel will remain more stable than the Dev channel, and Microsoft say that features in this build are likely to make it into future final release builds of Windows.
Beta builds will be in the 22000 series.
Getting on the right Channel
The restructuring of the Windows Insider Channels will require some choices to be made.
Anyone / any device currently on the Dev channel will be automatically moved to the Canary channel, where they will continue to receive Windows updates with build numbers in the 25000s range. These will be less stable that the current Dev channel.
Anyone wanting to move to the new Dev channel (to obtain the 23000 series builds) will require to initiate a clean build (rebuild) of their device and to then re-enrol their device on the new Dev Channel.
Users on the Beta and Release Preview channel will not need to do anything thought they will be able to move to the new Dev channel without needing to reinstall the OS.
As an “evergreen” Operating System, Microsoft is continually enhancing and improving Windows 11, with the help of user feedback, community voice and the work it does with the @WindowsInsidercommunity to make Windows better and better. Microsoft released the Windows 11 2022 Update at the end of last year which featured loads of improvements and features.
As the hybrid workplace continues to adapt and change, it will come as no surprise that there are a tone of further updates planned for Windows 11 in 2023 which will see Microsoft ramp up the pace of update releases rather than the “traditional” annual update cycles.
It’s all about “moments”.
Outside the core update cycles, Microsoft will also be shipping more frequent updates known as and enhancements known as “Moment updates“. The first moment update shipped in October 2022 and included a number of highly requested features such as tabs in File Explorer – which, just like in an Edge browser, help users stay more focussed and organised when working with files and folders and negates the need to have multiple instances of File Explorer open – also thereby preserving system resources and saving energy.
As get well in to the first quarter of 2023, Windows 11’s ‘Moment 2’ update is expected to to ship sometime in March and has been being tested by Windows Insiders for a couple of months now. To be released via Windows Update, the moment 2 update will include another set of highly requested features and improvements. Having been part of the testing and feedback panel on this, I wanted to share some of the key things coming imminently…
Taskbar enhancements There a bunch of new customisation features and adaptive enhancements in this update.
On of my biggest favourites is some big enhancements to the taskbar.
First up is that Microsoft is bringing the new AI-powered Bing experience directly into the search bar in Windows 11.
Second is improved the experience when the Windows device is in “tablet mode” – which is most applicable to users with devices like the Surface Pro an other 2-in-1 devices. This works really well and makes Windows 11 much more intuitive when working in different orientations. It has come a long way since Windows 10.
With this update, users will see a new adaptive Taskbar that is better optimised for tablet use and touch. The key change here is ensuring that the Taskbar no longer gets in the way when in tablet mode, making better use of the screen real estate.
Third up, the Taskbar is also getting 4 new search bar options (which Microsoft have been experimenting with for a few months with Insiders. These will include options for no icon, a search icon, a search icon with label, and traditional search box.
Next up (I said there were loads), users will be able to swipe up on the Taskbar to get access to their pinned and running applications icons for simple interaction and by continuing the swipe up action, you are seamlessly transitioned to the Start Menu automatically.
Finally, users will have the ability to pin and unpin background apps to the taskbar via the Settings app. This useful for users that aren’t a fan of the System Tray overflow menu. As such users will now have the choice of disabling this feature. Windows 11’s overflow flyout view will also now allows for more icons to be shown.
Task Manager and Settings app changes
This update will also see some new enhancements to Task Manager, including a new search bar at the top which will allow users to quickly carry out searches on files without having to navigate or use menus. Microsoft have also updates some of the new popup dialogs to keep it in line with the fluent design. Accent colour matching has also been improved.
The Settings app also gets a handful of updates all centred around enhancing the user’s experience and how they interact with the OS based. One of the new key features in this update is the inclusion of a new Energy Recommendations feature that is now included within the Power & Sleep section – see the little video below.
This enables users to easily view and adjust energy efficient settings (which is also guided by the aid of a little wizard) and allows aspects like changing the time it takes for the device to go to sleep, what happens to USB de
vices in sleep mode when it can’t detect any input.
Other updates across the OS
File Explorer has also been further enhanced. For example, when you type into the search box, the results will be displayed instantly. The search box also appears to have reduced in size.
Other key changes include expanded voice commands supported by the Voice Access feature, the Snipping tool now comes with two buttons, Snip and Record. This means you can now screen record your display, and even pause and play it, though it is a real same that there is no simple blur tool to mask out any private information without the need to use third party tools….. [please add this Microsoft]
Keep up to date
To find out more about the Windows Insider Programme and to follow the updates to Windows 11, check out the Windows Insider Blog
Microsoft will still detect for known issues or incompatibilities in your system, either hardware or application based as as such may still implement a blocking safeguardnto prevent your device getting the update until the known issue is resolved.
For less eager users, who do not manually check for updates, the update will arrive in time as part of the traditional update release schedule, giving the Microsoft more time to to continue monitoring the quality and success of the rollout across the huge number of devices running Windows 11.
For more experienced users, Microsoft has also made official ISOs for #Windows11 available from their website or by using the Windows 11 Installation Assistant. Please ensure you don’t use third party, non Microsoft sites as these are likely to be scams and full of nasties!
Known issues with 22H2
Microsoft is constantly monitoring the efficiency and quality of the update and have issues a few advisories around certain incompatibilities with the update which include amongst other things some printer drivers issues as well as an issue when copying large files to Windows 11 2022 systems locally and via network. Patches for the latter are already being rolled out.
Windows 11 version 22H2 is the next major update coming to Windows 11 was released yesterday (20th Sept 2022).
Can you believe that Windows 11 has been with us for almost a year? Since then, Microsoft has been continually working with Windows Insiders to add more polish and refinement that is now making their way into this latest update, as well as continuous enhancements and improvements based on feedback and media.
The initial release last year, was the major new release of Windows which built on the success of Windows 10, but with a major new Start menu, modern UI, enhancements to security, a brand-new, modern sounds and animations, and a bunch of new features all centred around enhancing the hybrid work and play experience.
As a Windows Insider, I’ve been using and testing the Windows 11 22H2 update for some time, and this blog aims to summarise the key changes and experience from my point of view.
There’s lots of polish, improvements and changes coming in this update, the key ones worthy of mention are listed below and discussed in more detail within this blog… Enjoy!
Start menu now has App Folders
Taskbar finally support Drag and Drop
Focus Assist integrates to Notification Center
Snap Assist gets snappier and smarter.
File Explorer gets Tabs
OneDrive gets more integrated with the OS
Touch enhancements and new gestures
New Task Manager app
New Video Editing / Authoring App
Enhanced Accessibility Features
Numerous UI improvements
Version 22H2 will be offered as a free update for all Windows 11 users and is part of the life cycle updates that we are used to with Windows.
Note: Windows 10 (which is supported and serviced until 2025), will also soon be getting its 22H2 update.
Start Menu Updates
With the first version of Windows 11, Microsoft introduced an innovative new design for the Start menu that had been rebuilt from the ground up with simplicity in mind. This was led with some criticism but has been generally well received and is a nice modern touch on what was an aging look and feel.
The biggest news with this update is that users can now create app folders. Creating app folders is simply and intuitive. By simply dragging one app icon over the other, then letting go, Windows will create the app folder, which can then be named re organised and moved around move the folder around in the pinned area of the Start menu. This helps a lot with making the Start menu feel less cluttered and is similar to what we are used too on android and iOS.
Taskbar and Action Centre
Unfortunately, no…. You still cannot move the taskbar from the bottom of the screen to the sides or the top. There has been lots of feedback around this as it’s been possible to move it in all previous versions of Windows. It looks like it’s staying at the bottom (at least for now). Remember you can move the alignment of the start button to the left though!
The biggest criticism filed in feedback hub around Windows11 has been about the Taskbar and the inability to be able to drag and drop files between apps using the Taskbar. This has been resolved and is back in Windows 11 22H2 which makes multitasking with the Taskbar far easier and restores functionality that was previously part of the Taskbar in previous versions of Windows…. Shame it’s taken a year to put it back!
The Action Center has also received a bunch of updates too, including the “focus assist” button, which has moved from Quick Settings into the Notification panel where it makes more sense. As part of the move, it’s also been renamed to “do not disturb.” which also makes more sense. Microsoft has also added a new “focus” timer under the calendar flyout.
The focus timer is now also paired with the Windows 11 Clock app, which can also synchronise with your Microsoft To-Do lists and to Spotify. In this latest update users can now start a do not disturb session (with music) straight from the notification center, whereas previously this had to be launched from the Clock app.
Finally, the Bluetooth action in the Quick Settings panel has been updated with the ability to view and manage Bluetooth devices without having to launch the Settings app first. This brings it in line with other Quick Setting actions like the Wi-Fi and accessibility toggles.
Snap Assist Updates
One the best new features that hit Windows 11 was Snap Assist, which provides a simple and intuitive way of aligning Windows across your display(s).
This update brings and additional way of initiating snap assist. With this update, and in addition to the drop-down snapping menu that appears when you hover a window at the top of the screen, and the ability to drag app windows to the far left or right of your screen, the 22H2 update adds a new “snap bar” menu that drops down from the top middle of your display when you grab an app window to move it.
The snap bar “peeks” out at the top of your screen when you begin to move an app window (rather than having to take it all the way to the top) and allows you to drag your app window into any of the snapping layouts available.
As before, the number of snap grid options is based on the size and resolution of your display.
File Explorer has received a fair amount of attention in this 22H2 update.
First up, Tabs…. Yes, Microsoft is adding tabs to the File Explorer app, something that have been requested in feedback hub for ages. Just like a Web Browser, you can now open new tabs and switch between them directly from File Explorer without having to open multiple windows.
Next, there is a new “Home” page that is now shown by default when you open the File Explorer. The layout is still familiar but has some subtle differences such as a new “favourites” and “recent” area that appears below your quick-access folders.
The Home page give you the ability to pin files to the favorites area, which will keep them front and center for ease of access. Additionally, the recents area works similarly to the recommended feed in the Start menu and shows. A history of the most recent opened files. This can be turned off if you don’t want to use it.
Microsoft has also moved personal folders out from the “This PC” section – this now only shows storage and network drives. This means if you want to access your user folders, you need to go to the Home page or the sidebar. Whilst this was tested with Windows Insiders, I suspect some users will find this an odd change, but I guess it does make sense.
The sidebar interface in File Explorer has also been updated slightly. Microsoft have repositioned the Home page and OneDrive folders at the top of the side bar, followed by pinned and most used folders, “This PC” and “Network drives” are at the bottom of the side bar.
OneDrive has become even more integrated into File Explorer with 22H2. It is now possible to set your OneDrive directory as the default home page for File Explorer. This is useful as more people are using OneDrive over personal local storage. File Explorer also now includes a new sync activity indicator in the top right which shows available cloud storage as well as what files are syncing or have recently been synced.
Finally, there is an updated “open with” dialog design too which is more in line with the rest of the Windows 11 design. It works in the same way as the old one, just like looks like it was built for Windows 11.
The Touch Experience has also been improved for users with touch-first devices like Surface Pro. Windows 11 removed the dedicated “tablet mode” interface that touch users were used to on Windows 10 last year and replaced it with enhancements to the desktop interface to make it easier to use with touch. With the 22H2 updat3, there are new gestures that enable access to common system areas such as the Start menu and Control Center with the swipe of a finger as well as new gestures for things like switching, closing, and snapping apps.
Start menu: Swipe up from the bottom middle of the screen.
All Apps: Swipe right in the Start menu.
Control Centre: Swipe up from the bottom right of the screen.
Switch between open apps: Three finger swipe left or right in the middle of the screen.
Task View: Three finger swipe up in the middle of the screen.
Minimise all apps: Three finger swipe down in the middle of the screen
New Native Apps
A number of the stock apps have also been updated and a major new one added.
Task Manager has been updated for the first time since Windows 8 and brings with it a brand-new design that brings it in line with the rest of the Windows 11 design language.
The updated Task Manager introduces a new sidebar along the left which is home to all the different tabs that Task Manager has always featured. From here you can access system processes, performance, app history, start-up apps, users, details, and services tabs right from the hamburger menu.
Common actions such as “end task” and “run new task” have been moved to the top right corner, just below the window controls and Microsoft has also updates the graphs in the performance tab match your system accent colour.
Microsoft has also added two brand new apps with the also the 22H2 update.
Clipchamp is a new video editing tool that Microsoft acquired last year that is now a Stock Windows 11 app. The app is good IMO and provides good video editing tools. It is simple and intuitive to use to create videos, tutorials etc., for corporate, home, or social media. There’s is a paid tier and free tier, with the paid option offering many more stock video, music and animated effects as well as free cloud storage.
Secondly, the Family Safety (also available on iOS and Android) is now available as an app on Windows 11. This is a web app, which simply points to the online Microsoft Family Safety services where you can add family members, track their location, approve purchase requests, share Office subscriptions, and monitor usage and activity across all apps and services including Xbox games.
Enhanced Accessibility Features
Microsoft is now stranger to accessibility features across their products and services.
22H2 update brings live captions, which can be enabled on any content. The live captions work across all Windows and with any app and even works without an Internet connection.
Microsoft has added a new voice access feature that enables full control your Windows PC using just your voice and is powerful, simple to use and accurate (in my testing anyway).
When voice access is enabled, a narration bar appears along the top of the screen, which then let’s you use your voice to navigate all of Windows. Key commands such as “open Start” or “scroll Edge”, “Open Word”. You can also use your voice to move the cursor to specific points on the screen, type sentences into text boxes and much more.
In all a solid bunch of updates to mark the One Year Anniversary of Windows 11. For me there is still (as there was in Windows 10) many UI inconsistencies to work on, but Microsoft are getting there and the enhancements to Start Menu and Taskbar are very much welcomed.
If you have feedback on anything in Windows 11, then I encourage you to file your feedback in the Feedback Hub. The engineers and programme managers take the feedback seriously and it is reviewed and listened to. You can get to Feedback Hub, from Windows 11 by pressing 🪟and F.
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Windows Autopatch, a service to automatically keep Windows and Microsoft 365 up to date in enterprise organisations, has now reached public preview. When officially released (GA), it will be included Microsoft commercial customers with a Windows Enterprise E3 license or higher.
In short, Windows Autopatch automatically allows organisation to shift the management and deployment of Windows 10, Windows 11 and Microsoft 365 Apps including quality and feature updates, drivers, firmware to Microsoft.
What’s the purpose?
Essentially this aims to take the nightmare out of the age-old “patch Tuesday” and promises to be a great time saver for IT admins. With Autopatch, IT can continue to use their existing tools and processes for managing and deploying updates to devices OR can look to phase in or replace this in entirety and with this new “hands off” approach and let Windows Autopatch take care of security, driver and firmware updates.
“Changing the way things get done, even when that change makes things easier, gives pause to most people who run large IT organisations. By joining the public preview, you’ll be able to get comfortable with Windows Autopatch and ready your organisation to take advantage of the service at scale”.
Lior Bela | Senior Product Marketing Manager | Microsoft
The main purpose of Windows Autopatch is moving the update orchestration burden from the IT department to Microsoft. Once deployed, configured and tested, Autopatch should allow the entire effort around planning and managing the Windows Update process (sequencing and rollout) to be taken away from IT freeing up time and resources.
“Whenever issues arise with any Autopatch update, the remediation gets incorporated and applied to future deployments, affording a level of proactive service that no IT admin team could easily replicate,” Bela added.
“Whenever issues arise with any Autopatch update, the remediation gets incorporated and applied to future deployments, affording a level of proactive service that no IT admin team could easily replicate.”
Lior Bela | Senior Product Marketing Manager | Microsoft
How to enable Autopatch
Windows Autopatch devices must be managed by Microsoft Intune for this to work and Intune must be set as the Mobile Device Management (MDM) authority or co-management must be turned on and enabled on the target devices.
As you’d expect, there are a handful of steps needed to enable the preview and to enrol your Microsoft 365 tenant into the Windows Autopatch public preview:
Log on to Endpoint Manager as a Global Admin and navigate to the Windows Autopatch blade which is under the Tenant Administration menu – this will only be visible if you have the right licenses deployed.
Using an InPrivate browser window, redeem your Autopatch preview code
Run the readiness assessment, add the required admin contact, and add the devices you want to enrol in the service.
Tick the box, to allow Microsoft to manage updates on behalf of your organisation.
Microsoft also provides detailed instructions(and video) on how to add devices to your test ring and how to resolve the status of “tenant not ready,” or a status of “device not ready” or “device not registered.”
How Autopatch works
The Windows Autopatch service automatically splits your organisation’s device estate into four groups of devices described by Microsoft as “testing rings”.
Test Ring: Contains a minimum number of devices for test purposes
First Ring: Contains ~1% of all endpoints (think of this like the early adopter ring)
Fast Ring: Contains ~9% of devices
Broad Ring: Contains the rest of the devices.
The updates are deployed progressively, starting with the test ring and moving to the larger sets of devices following a validation period in which the system and IT can monitor device performance and compare it to pre-update metrics through End Point Analytics.
Autopatch also features a nifty, feature called “Halt and Rollback” that block updates from being applied to higher test rings or rolled back automatically. This is key for critical dates or projects which may be impacted by updates or where quality errors are detected in the Test Ring updates.
What about Patch Tuesday and Critical Updates?
Microsoft will continue to deliver monthly security and quality updates for supported versions of the Windows on the second Tuesday of the month (commonly referred to Patch Tuesday or Update Tuesday) as they have been to date. These will be delivered by Autopatch also.
For normal updates, Autopatch uses a regular release cadence starting with devices in the test ring and completing with general rollout to broad ring.
Any updates addressing a critical vulnerability, such as Zero Day threats, will be expedited by Windows Autopatch with a aim to patch all devices immediately.
Microsoft is known for setting the standard and innovating the laptop market with Surface and with Surface Laptop SE they have done it again – this time at the lowest end of the market with the extremely cheap but well built Surface that starts from just £229.
What is Surface Laptop SE?
Microsoft target market for Surface Laptop SE is schools that buy laptops in bulk to give to students in classrooms and/or to take home. This is laptop for children from primary age up to mid-secondary school age, which explains why this has been built with lower end specifications and the more lightweight and plastic design.
Surface Laptop SE is not sold commercially or direct to consumers and runs Windows 11 SE, which relies on remote provisioning, deploying, and admin for installing and maintaining applications.
Note: Windows 11 SE is not like Windows 10 in S Mode. Windows 11 SE run apps from both in and from outside the Microsoft Store. The main difference is that the OS is trimmed down and has been specifically optimised for lower specification devices. Windows SE is Microsoft's solution to help empower teachers and learners with productive, sturdy and reliable laptops at scale.
For a device that costs between £229 and £300 you might think “really!!!!”, but I’d say that Microsoft has done it again and created an awesome piece of budget hardware which should set a new standard for low-end devices built specifically for Pre-School, Primary and lower Secondary School students.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop SE is available to education through Surafce resellers and also via Microsoft directly and pricing starts from just £229 for the 4GB RAM/64GB model, which comes with a dual-core Intel Celeron N4020 processor. The model I tested, was the slightly higher specification model which retails at around £299 and has 8GB of RAM, 128GB storage and a quad-core Intel Celeron N4120 CPU.
First Impressions: Look and Feel
This looks like a Surface! From a design perspective, the Surface Laptop SE has some similarities from its sibling, the Surface Laptop Go, but has a much more attractive price for the education market. To get to a price of just £229, Microsoft have had to compromise in a number of areas such as swapping the sleek “Surface” metal for a more child-friendly plastic for the overall chassis design. Do not let that put you off though – it is still a sleek and elegant design that looks modern, clean and far more premium than it should for a device at this price.
The top lid features a simple but bold Surface logo, while the underside of the device is clean with just seven screws that hold it together allowing for easy accessibility for repairs – yes – this is a repairable device! Alongside this, there are four rubber feet with the two rear ones being slightly taller than the front to allow a natural and angled keyboard typing experience.
Port and connectivity wise, the Laptop SE has a USB Type-A, USB Type-C (which supports power, data and video display), a headphone jack, a separate barrel type charger in favour for a the standard Surafce Connector – which I found a little odd, but presumably is much cheaper to replace.
Laptop SE is extremely light – weighing just over a kilo at 1.11kg (about 2.4 pounds) which is the weight of a bag of sugar! You can see my “unboxing experience” below.
First Impressions: Useability
So first things and weird to get my head round is that the Surafce Laptop SE does not have a touch screen, nor does it support pen and ink! This is not surprising given the price point but had to put that out there – it is a Surface after all!
It’s normally easy to tell a cheap/budget laptop from the quality of the casing, keyboard and trackpad but not on Surface Laptop SE. The experience on Laptop SE is every bit premium and features exceptional quality and usability. Unlike many other budget laptops, Microsoft have reinforced the keyboard, which provides a sturdy and premium typing experience which is IMO the same as the experience on any Surafce Laptop Go .
As a budget device, Microsoft have replaced the usual LCD multi-touch screen found it other Surface devices with a 16:9 aspect ratio, 11.6-inch non-touch TFT screen with a resolution of 1366×768 and an aspect ration of 135 pixels per inch.
When using the Surface Laptop SE, the display is bright, colours look good and the matt screen works well (especially given that in a school environment it’s usually bright and light). Viewing angles are good too and it’s easy to see the screen even if you are looking square on. Finally, screen bezels are a bit thick, but given this is designs for school use, it means you dont grab the screen when closing the lid or changing the angle.
Surface Laptop SE is equipped with just a 1-megapixel 720p (30 FPS) front-facing camera, which is of course a lower budget option compared to the flagship devices. Despite the lower resolution, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the camera worked (even in low and bright light), and in a Teams test call with myself, the image quality was very good and sharp. The onboard microphone is also really good (well it was in limited test environment) and did a great job of picking up all the relevant voice tones.
Given this is a device for schools, it needs to last the school day at least right and even more if the schools are providing these on a 1:1 basis for students which is happening more and more.
Battery life is good, Microsoft claims 16 hours, which they never seem to get right in real life, but I used my test device for a whole day from 8:30am until the battery died at around 4:30pm – a solid 8.5hrs of constant use with it plugged into a second screen, running on wireless and with all my common apps open including Teams which I used for around 6 Teams Meetings.
Performance and Workload
Surface Laptop SE is totally silent in operation. It doesn’t get hot, it does not have a fan, so it produces no ambient noise – at all.
My Test Scenario 1. Battery fully charged (no plugged int mains) 2. Wireless On 3. External Monitor Connected via USB-C in Extended Mode 4. Brightness and Power all set to “auto” 5. Workloads tested: 6 x Teams Calls (with video), PowerPoint, Outlook, Word, Excel, Edge
As you’d imagine by the insanely low price point, Surface Laptop SE is no power horse, though it performed surprisingly well given what I threw at it.
For the main all my core apps like Office Apps and Teams ran well. The device comes with Minecraft Education Edition installed too, so took this for a spin over lunch and it too ran without an issue or lag (I just need to learn how to play it). Surface Laptop SE seemed quite happy chugging along with the majority of my day-to-day productivity apps together. Apps running via the browser were naturally more responsive which is one of the great things with modern apps like Office 365 in the browser.
The only place where it seems to “struggle” a bit, was initial device boot up, resume from sleep (which takes a second or two) and general “first time” app launching where you really notice the performance lag of the “out-dated” chipsets in this device – the N4120 Celeron processor is some 3 years old. This isn’t Microsoft’s fault as it’s the best they can do (and they have done well) with what Intel offers at this low price point.
That said – performance it is not awful, and after a few hours of use, it feels normal to be honest – this is due in part to the way in which Microsoft optimised Windows 11 SE to take the best advantage of the low-power Celeron N4120 processor, including streamlining the Windows 11 OS to use less system resources.
I cover Windows 11 SE in a separate post.
Conclusion and Closing Comments
Given the age range and sector this device is aimed at – it is more than adequate and a great bit of “value” Surface tech.
Surface Laptop SE highlights what makes Surface, a Surface and it sets the standard for low cost, good quality laptops for primary and secondary education. Microsoft’s attention to detail, focus on core features, and quality design where it matters are all what Surface does best and Surface Laptop SE is no exception.
You won’t be buying one of these for the office, but even though this is designed for school children. It feels good to use and doesn’t feel like a budget friendly device at all. Most students (even teachers to be honest), don’t “need” a high-end Surface Laptop or Pro and if this means schools can equip students and teachers with technology to facilitate digital curriculum then Surface Laptop SE can go a long way to help school achieve this.
This of course, brings us to the obvious question about why Microsoft doesn’t sell this directly to consumers as well (with Windows 11 Pro)? I think they should – I’d certainly buy one for my 7 y/o. I think with a slightly better CPU, it would make a great home laptop at a crazy cheap price.
To end this review, if you work at a Primary or Secondary School, are looking at ways to increase your device to student ratio or provide a laptop for every child, Surface Laptop SE should be looked at.
Windows 11 officially launched on October 25th 2021 and ever since that day, Microsoft have been working hard ensure it’s shipped by default with all new modern PCs as well as of course through the free upgrade on supported Windows 10 devices.
Whilst there are still some niggles and bugs reported by users such as task bar functionality and the controversial move of the start menu (which can me moved back to the left if preferred), feedback continues to make a difference and Microsoft are still hard at work on features and updates which will be part of the first major update later this year (currently being tested by #WindowsInsiders as usual).
Microsoft announced, as part of their FY22 Q2 earnings call, a new Windows blog post which highlights the scale and growth of the Windows market, user satisfaction and adoption.
The blog post cited a number of stats including the rapid adoption rate of Windows 11 stating that “Windows 11 also has the highest quality scores and product satisfaction of any version of Windows we’ve ever shipped.”
The PC is more important than ever
According to Microsoft, people are spending 40% more time on their Windows 11 PC when compared to how people used Windows 10. Whilst Microsoft don’t provide substantial details around how the data is collected, its likely as a result of the huge amount of telemetry data that Microsoft have across their product use. Of course Windows 11 has only really “existed” during these COVID-19 times, which is likely to be part of the reason people are spending more time on their devices than pre pandemic.
Over 1.4 Billion Windows devices
In the earnings call, Microsoft said they exceeded expectations for device shipments in Q2 and also exceeded their personal computing segment. Microsoft shared figures for Windows 11, Windows 10, Microsoft Teams, and their other services in a call to investors.
The big stat that was called out was that the total number of devices running Windows now stands at over 1.4 billion devices.
Windows OEM licensing was up by a massive 25% this quarter driven by continued growth in the PC market, despite the on going global chip shortage.
Related to the above, Microsoft Surface revenue also grew by 8%, driven by unprecedented demand for Surface Laptop and Surface Pro 8.
Other OEMs like HP, Lenovo and Dell, Lenovo have also recently published record growth numbers which also help drive that a Windows 11 number upwards.
2021 saw the release of Windows 11 and Microsoft moving to a twice annual update model (outside of security and critical updates).
As we close out 2021 around the world and welcome in 2022, I wanted to share my list of things that I hope may come to Windows 11 this year.
If you haven’t made the move to Windows 11 yet and have not seen it, then in summary, other than a pretty major UI change, Windows 11 really refines a lot of what’s good about Windows 10 without compromising too many of its strengths, adds new functionality to enhance productivity and brings the OS up to date in terms of design, leading edge security baselines and performance.
Like Windows 10, the OS will be reguarly serviced and Microsoft have already confirmed that the next major update to Windows 11 will ship in the second half of 2022. As usual, Windows Insiders will be at the front of the line, testing and feeding back through the development phase as usual.
Below is a summary of some of the top changes to Windows 11 I’m hoping to see in 2022.
What I hope to see in 2022
I will keep this based on what is either public knowledge (Insider MVPs have strict NDAs so we can’t share anything told or shared under NDA).
1. Finishing the build…
22H2 will most likely see Microsoft continue to “finish” off the OS with the features, fixes and changes that either didn’t make it into the initial release or have been niggles/annoyances fed back by the user community via blogs, tweets and the formal Windows feedback hub. Much of these niggles at the top of the feedback lists are associated with finally delivery a consistent system wide dark mode across the OS including to legacy UI components, performance issues around WinUI and the return of the missing functionality, especially those centred around the start menu and Taskbar (like drag and drop).
2. Make the Widgets more useful
Widgets in Windows 11 seemed a really promising concept, but so far have failed to really add anything useful to the OS. They have lots of potential though I think.
Since live tiles in Windows are no more with Windows 11 (which I do kinda miss), Widgets, are essentially auto-updating tiles which reside within a hidden tray that slides out from the left side of the screen when you tap or click on the Widgets button. It builds on the weather/news taskbar app that shipped in Windows 10 21H1.
Within the Widgets is a Top Stories module that shows a selection of six stories from different news outlets like BBC, the Express, The Mirror, and more. Unfortunately it seems more like a never-ending stream of mainly irrelevant stories from different media outlets around the world. These can be personalised broadly by filtering th news from a list of interest topics that Microsoft provide.
The idea of being able to quickly pull up a Widget to monitor CPU performance, jot down a note or add something to a to-do list is pretty useful, so it’s annoying that this aspect of the OS feels so unfinished and rushed. Hopefully it will change and I think allowing users more control over the content and news sources and allowing third party apps like Spotify etc, Widgets would make widgets a really useful part of Windows 11.
From the feedback I have seen via Feedback Hub, Microsoft is likley to give the widget panel some much needed attention in 2022 (especially since the latest Insider Dev build broke widgets entirely).
3. Release the Android App Support
Other than for Windows Insiders in the USA, one of the flagship features annouced at the launch of Windows 11, Android App support has still not been released so I expect this to make its way to everyone in version update 22H2.
This is important since it was a significant part of Microsoft’s marketing plan around the annoucement of Windows 11. Microsoft showed a native Android version of Tiktok running on the same Windows desktop as Excel during the official unveiling of Windows 11 in June 2021.
Like many, I remain skepticle as to how this will materialise, whether it will live up to hype and if people will use it. It will also be interesting to see if it will be limited to apps from the Amazon App Store (a much more limited. Set of apps to the wider Google Play store).
In short, I think that if Microsoft wants to convince more comsumers to migrate to Windows 11, they needs to deliver this native Android app support sooner rather than later.
4. “Inbox” App Refreshes
Windows Insiders have seen some of the native ‘in-box’ apps updated in recent builds, such as MS Paint and Notepad and others are likley to get the modern Windows 11 UI updates such as media player, sound recorder etc. The native Mail & Calendar apps are also expected to be replaced with Microsoft’s new lightweight Outlook client in 2022.
5. More love for Windows on ARM
Windows on ARM (for devices like the Surface Pro X) seems to have been a bit neglected since Windows 11s launch, and we haven’t seen truck loads of ARM powered laptops hit the market.
Microsoft are due to release a formal devkit for ARM in 2022, in time for the next Surface Pro X which will likely ship with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx G3 chip. If Microsoft are serious about the future of ARM then 2022 is the year to make it a thing…as it still feels a little like an ‘experiment’.
What’s your top 5?
This is just my top five from a core functionality perspective. There are other little niggles as always with anything new and everyone has and is entitled to their view an opinion.
What ever you like, don’t like, love or hate, make sure you use the feedback hub in Windows 11 to tell the engineering team. As a Windows Insider MVP, I can tell that the Windows engineering team really do care and what to hear your feedback. It’s hard to make an OS that delivers everything to everyone (over a billion users), but that’s the goal so keep the feedback coming.
Windows 11, has the ability to display multiple clocks in the Taskbar. This can be useful in many situations, for example, if you work or communicate regularly with people in different time zones across the world.
Windows 11 can help here as it allows you to display up to two additional clocks from different time zones within the the Notification Center calendar. Here’s how to configure it.
Adding additional Time Zones to the Notification Centre
To add additional time zones to the calendar fly out in Windows 11 you need to follow these simple steps.
Click on Time & Language
Click the Date & Time on the right-hand side
Navigate to Related Links and click the Additional clocks setting
This then opens a legacy Windows Applet where you enter the additional times zones you’d like along with a friendly name like the example below.
Once you complete the steps, and click Apply or OK, the clock will now appear in the Notification Center (or when you press Windows key + N).
How to add multiple time zone clocks on Windows 11 To add another time zone clock on the Notification Center calendar, use these steps:
Microsoft has launched a new edition of Windows 11 designed specifically for schools.
Windows 11 SE will ship exclusively on low-cost laptops that are built for the classroom which currently have good popularity with adoption of low cost Chromebooks, particuarly in the US.
It’s OK.. It’s not another Windows “S Mode”
Windows 11 SE has been designed for schools and is more akinned to the abandoned Windows 10X than it is Windows S Mode, which didn’t do well in education due to the limitations of only being able to install apps from the Microsoft Store.
Windows 11 SE will only be available on new low-cost devices and only for schools and education customers. As you’d expect, Windows 11 SE has been naturally, optimised for the core lifeblood Microsoft apps like Edge, Teams, Office, and their cloud-based services, but does allow use of any app including services and apps like Zoom, Google Chrome etc.
Windows 11 SE also supports third-party apps, including Zoom and Chrome, because we want to give schools the choice to use what works best for them,” says Paige Johnson, head of Microsoft’s education marketing.
Paige Johnson | Head of Microsoft Marketing Edu
Management and Apps
IT will be in control of what apps get installed by default and what can be installed and devices can be managed to silently update outside of schools hours. Device management and control is naturally provided by Microsoft Device Manager (formerly Intune).
Windows 11 SE doesn’t allow access to the Microsoft Store, since it will be down to IT to decide which apps get installed on Windows 11 SE devices. Microsoft will share a list of all supported popular school apps (which I haven’t seen published as yet).
Refined with schools by students and teachers
Microsoft say that they have spent the past 18 months or so working with schools ( teachers and students and IT) to get feedback on what is needed for education. This input and feedback has led to some education specific features such as apps always launching in full screen as well as some of the more advanced layouts and desktop controls like Snap Layouts have also been disabled and replaced instead by a single mode that just let’s students organise apps side by side. Widgets are also off as these were seen distracting to students in testing.
In order to try to convince more schools to use Microsoft Edge over Google Chrome, the option yo accept Chrome extensions will be on by default. Edge is built on chromium which means schools that use Chrome today will be able to continue to use their favourite Chrome extensions in Edge.
Leverages the Power of Microsoft 365
Windows 11 SE uses OneDrive as its default document store and also is configured with offline support to make it easier for students to use Windows 11 SE laptops offline or in areas of the school where they isn’t WiFi for example.
OneNote is also extremely popular and powerful tool and is also installed and configured by default. OneNote for education as some really powerful teacher and student co authoring and class book features so it makes sense that they are putting this in the default build.
Windows 11 SE will only be available on dedicated low-cost laptops that are sold to schools or education institutions.
This week, Microsoft annouced the launch of its new Surface Laptop SE, which sets the baseline for Windows 11 SE powered devices.
Starting at just $249, the base model ships with an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, and an 11.6-inch (1366 x 768) screen. Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, and other are also planning to launch Windows 11 SE laptops in the coming months.
From midnight last night around the globe, Microsoft pressed the button the availability of Windows 11 which will be offered to eligible Windows 10 PCs from today via Windows Update (or via your IT team if they are ready to press the button on your corporate roll out).
Windows 11 was officially announced to the public in June this year and has endured a short public testing period by Windows Insiders before being made available as an Operating System for everyone (hardware compatibility dependant of course) from 5th Oct 21.
Windows 11 is rolling out in waves
The Windows 11 update will continue rolling out in waves over the holiday and into 2022. Microsoft says it expects to have offered Windows 11 to all eligible Windows 10 PCs by mid-2022, and it will not be forced upon Windows 10 users at any point. Windows 11 is an optional release, and users are free to remain on Windows 10 if they wish. Windows 10 will be getting its own 21H2 release later this year.
As is always the case, Microsoft is also making available offline installation media, as well as the Upgrade Tool that will allow you to install Windows 11 today if you don’t want to wait for it to be offered via Windows Update. The final build of Windows 11 appears to be 22000.194, though that will continue to increase as time passes, as Microsoft continues servicing Windows 11 with bug fixes and security updates.
For Business or for Pleasure
Windows 11 looks different with a simpler, cleaner, and more modern look and feel with many of the key components and stock apps updated. The start menu has also had the biggest overhaul since Windows 8. Beyond the aesthetics and look and feel however, Windows 11 also brings many new features that business users should welcome.
Microsoft say that Windows 11 has been optimised for hybrid working, whereby employees split their time between the home, office and anywhere else they need to work. There has been a focus on improving multi-screen and multi-device set-ups, with options that will help users more easily multi-task and pick up where they left off.
One of my favourite enhancements is a new feature called Snap Layouts, which gives users a greater range of orientation options when multitasking across multiple windows, screens, and applications as you can see in the illustration below.
Windows 11 also sets a new benchmark for performance and security, designed to help speed up multi-tasking and memory management whilst (and most importantly), better protecting employees against an ever-growing and evolving cyber attacks and threats with Microsoft’s “Secure from Chip to Cloud” promise for Windows 11.
Will my device run Windows 11?
In short, if your device meets the following requires, you will be able to upgrade (or install) Windows 11 on your existing PC.
8th Gen Processor (ok there are some 7-Gens that do work like the Surface Studio 2)
UEFI Secure Boot with TPM 2.0 Enabled
On personal (our non-managed devices), the easiest way to check compatibility is to use the PC Health Check app that Microsoft have released that will tell you if your device meets the requirements to run Windows 11 or not and gives you a detailed breakdown as to what may be stopping you running it and whether or not they can be resolved (by putting more memory in for example, or upgrading your devices BIOS to support TPM2.0).
You can run this on non-corporate IT managed devices only here: (thanks to my friend Rowland Hills for spotting the error before)
For managed devices, within an organisation, then IT can check if devices are ready for it using Intune/Endpoint Configuration Manager and can be accessed from https://endpoint.microsoft.com and then navigate to “Reports/Endpoint Analytics/Work from anywhere” blade.
Note: It is possible (though of course not recommended) to attempt to bypass the checks by installing Windows 11 clean on an unsupported device, though your mileage may vary as to whether it works. Microsoft guarantees no updates on devices that are “unsupported” on Windows 11 except for security patches.
New Devices will ship with Windows 11
Windows 11 will be available to buy pre-loaded on new PCs if also meet the minimum requirements. Microsoft say that devices like the Surface Laptop Studio and Surface Pro 8 will be amongst the first to ship with Windows 11 out of box. Lenovo and Dell are also releasing theirs very soon after.
People say Windows 11 isn’t ready
It is…. but there’s still more work to do and things to polish.
Like Windows 10 before that, Windows is services regularly based on feedback from testers and now the wider public and corporate users. Microsoft is already hard at work on the next update to Windows 11, known as version 22H2 that will continue Microsoft’s vision of simplifying and modernising the Windows User Experience throughout. Windows Insiders in the DEV channel have been testing early builds of future builds for a couple of weeks.
We already know that the next build will add a more consistent and complete dark mode, a continued effort in updating legacy interfaces and apps that haven’t changed since Windows 7/8 and Android App Support which is dubbed to be released early 2022. Based on user feedback in the Insider Hub, there will also likely be enhancements to the task bar and start menu such as “re-enabling” drag and drop of files across apps via the taskbar – one of my bug bears in Windows 11.
This is just the beginning…
…of the Windows 11 journey. You can check the Feedback Hub in the OS, visit the Microsoft Blog pages or become a Windows Insider to help shape the future of Windows 11.
Based on leaks, past years and media gossip we expect to see:-
Surface Book 4
Surface Pro 8
Surface Go 2
Surface Duo 2 (aka surface phone)
So as my friends, colleagues and followers know I’m a big fan of Windows and Surface so just a tad excited for the annual Surface hardware event on Wed Sept 22nd 2021.
There’s been loads of coverage by Windows Central for example as well as many other spotters and bloggers as well as what has been refreshed in previous years. As such ere’s what might be coming based on the rumours and leaks and update history of past events.
Surface Book 4?
One of the most rumoured design changes “may” be coming to the Power horse that is the Surface Book 4. This (if true) will be a major uplift to the current model and w is expected to feature a brand new design with non-detachable 2-in-1 design which will basically combining the best of Surface Laptop with the Surface Pro form factor to create the new Book 4.
Based on the renders and numerous leaks, the display on the Surface Book 4 will be able to be pulled forward and laid flat over the keyboard deck for drawing or taking notes which also resembles similaraires to the Surface Studio.
I’d expect the usual upgrades to the internals, USB A to be ditched in favour of USB C (or even thunderbolt) and upgraded graphics capability and a possible increase in screen refresh rate to match the new dynamic refresh which is part of #Windows11.
The big question is will this in fact be called a Surface Book 4 or something else… Time will tell.. But I think its fair to say that this is likley to be the biggest highlight of the event on Wednesday.
Surface Pro 8
The flagship Surface Pro device (which will most likely be called the Surface Pro 8) should also be unveiled.
There is unlikely to be any major design changes but there are rumours we will see a more Surface Pro X feel to this years model with a bigger display and thinner bezels. There also be the usual spec upgrades to chipsets and processors to the latest and greatest.
There also been reports that Microsoft might be ready to up the screen to support a new dynamic refresh rate of up 120Hz for this years higher end Surface devices.
Surface Go 3
The ever popular Surface Go is likely see just a modest upgrade this year with better chipsets and battery and again will most likley keep the Intel Pentium Gold processor as well as an i3 (or maybe i5 option to match the Surface Laptop).
Other than, not expecting much else other than it would be nice to see an option of black… Everyone loves a black Surface.
Surface Duo 2
I loved the Duo v1 (price tag aside) but it lacked a lot of leasing features that would have earned more airtime…
There been lots of rumours and leaks in this one but we hope to see a much better phone that still builds on the amazing looks and quality of the original. We expect and hope to see it feature at least:
Latest Processor (Snapdragon 888)
5G and Bluetooth 5
Upgraded camera, as well as rear cluster
Upgraded battery and Screen
A new Surface Studio?
I’d love to see a new Studio but not heard any rumours on this one and suspect the new Surface Book 4 may create the hybrid graphics powerhouse in a mobile form… Who knows…we all will in a days time.
Where to watch the event?
The event is streamed live at 4pm UK time (11am ET) and can be watched (or register for a reminder) here.