Microsoft’s release of Windows 11 in October 2021 marked a significant stride in the operating system’s history. It was the latest release since Windows 10, which rolled out all the way back in 2015. Now, Microsoft has announced that Windows 11 will have an annual feature update cadence. The software giant says the updates will arrive in the second half of the calendar year.
Although it’s uncertain which features announced at Microsoft’s hybrid work event will be included in this year’s 22H2 update, it is certain that the updates they mentioned will enhance Windows 11. Here are some they’ve brought up so far:
Cloud PC Integration
Microsoft plans to tighten the integration between Windows 11 and Windows 365. They aim to create a seamless Windows experience by combining the cloud and PCs without sacrificing security. New features include:
- Windows 365 Boot – Log directly into your Windows 365 Cloud PC at startup and designate it as your primary Windows experience on the device. It allows different users to log in directly to their own personal and secure Windows 365 Cloud PC with their credentials.
- Windows 365 Switch – Enables users to move between Windows 365 Cloud PC and the local desktop. You’ll even be able to use the same familiar keyboard commands, as well as a mouse-click or swipe gesture.
- Windows 365 App – A native app that gives users another way to get straight to their Windows 365 Cloud PC from the taskbar or Start menu. The desktop path to your Windows 365 Cloud PC provides a personal, customized welcome experience to tailor your settings, profile, and work style.
- Windows 365 Offline – Enables work in Windows 365 even when disconnected. When connectivity is restored, the Windows 365 Cloud PC will automatically resync with the Windows 365 service without data loss so the user’s experience and workflow are persistent.
Full-Screen Widget Panel
The Widgets panel in Windows 11 has proven to be useful for getting a quick overview of the weather, news, sports, and more. By sliding out from the left, users can take a glance at their widgets. The only downfall is that the panel only covers half of the screen, which some users aren’t a fan of.
At the hybrid work event, Microsoft demoed a full-screen version of the Widgets panel as well as the ability to sign in to it from both work and personal accounts.
It just got a lot easier for IT administrators to send messages to employees. “Organizational Messages” allow admins to use Endpoint Manager to send alerts to those with Windows PCs. Wangui McKelvey, General Manager of Microsoft 365, said, “From the Endpoint Manager admin center, IT can create messages, provide customized links or URLs, configure the viewing frequency, and of course define the targeted set of users for the message based on the integration with Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD).” Alerts can show up as:
- Popups above the Taskbar
- Action Center notifications
- Messages directly on your lock screen
Context IQ Enhancements
The enhancements in Context IQ aim to reduce the number of clicks users take to complete actions like sharing a file. These “contextual suggestions” will recommend relevant content and contacts across Windows so you can cut down on the time it takes to finish a task.
Video Call Improvements
Microsoft is utilizing AI to make hybrid meetings and collaboration feel more natural. To do this, they’re implementing features like automatic framing, voice clarity, voice focus, background blur, and eye contact. Automatic framing refocuses your camera as you move around, and background blur reduces video and audio distractions in the background. Eye contact is a major AI feature that improves eye contact during meetings and calls. Another feature is Live Captions, which displays captions from all audio experiences and apps across Windows.
File Explorer Tabs
Tabs for File Explorer allows users to multitask and find multiple files at the same time. Similar to a web browser, users can have multiple folders and directories open under one app window.
“The File Explorer tabs thing is really user-specific,” said Stephen Kleynhans, a vice president at Gartner. “Some people love tabs and find it an easier cleaner way to organize what they are doing. Others prefer multiple windows. The real point here is that now you have the choice.”