Windows 11: 7 new features we weren’t expecting

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We knew the leaked version of Windows 11 we tried out last week was early and unfinished. What we didn’t know was what Microsoft had most in store for Windows 11: Android apps! Teams are talking! —When the company officially unveiled the new operating system on Thursday.

We can’t wait to explore some of these features when Microsoft begins releasing the first Windows Insider versions of Windows 11 next week. (Not all new features will be available in the first release.) Until then, all we have to do is intriguing new plots of new Windows 11 features that we does not have know about.

Android apps on your Windows 11 PC

Microsoft’s product manager, Panos Panay, said he was “pumped” to bring Android apps to the PC, and why shouldn’t he be? Android apps have been one of the perks of Google’s Chrome OS platform, which powers competing Chromebooks. Their addition to Windows 11 means that the number of apps available for Windows PCs will potentially grow much more. Microsoft doesn’t frequently detail the number of Windows apps, but in 2018 Microsoft revealed that there were 35 million Windows-compatible apps, including legacy software. AppBrain estimates the number of Android apps to be around 3 million.

Android apps on your PC try again Microsoft

Android apps will arrive on Windows 11, but it’s unclear how much Windows 11 will receive.

It is not clear whether Microsoft will bring all Android app on the PC, as it will appear in the Microsoft Store, not a version of the Google Play Store for the PC. Microsoft showcased Khan Academy, Kindle Reader, TikTok, and more in a screenshot example.

To bring Android apps to Windows PCs, Microsoft uses Intel Bridge technology, which Intel describes at a high level as a “runtime post-compiler that allows apps to run natively on x86 devices,” including running these applications on Windows ”.

It looks like Windows 11 will do this job on your PC, rather than the Microsoft Store, so Windows 11 PCs should be able to load Android apps and games. We still don’t know if Intel’s Bridge technology is somehow exclusive to Intel Core. We have sought clarification from AMD, Intel and Microsoft.

Teams Chat in your taskbar

Like it or not, Microsoft insists that you can easily reach Contacts from your Windows desktop. It started with the old People app and then moved on to Skype Meet Now in your taskbar as well. Now it switches to Teams, putting Teams Chat in your Windows 11 taskbar.

chat teams windows 11 microsoft Microsoft

Microsoft adds Teams Chat to the taskbar.

“With Windows 11, we’re excited to introduce Microsoft Teams Chat built into the taskbar,” Microsoft said in a blog post featuring Windows 11. “You can now connect instantly via text, chat, voice or video with all your contacts, anywhere, no matter what platform or device they’re on, Windows, Android, or iOS. If the person you’re connecting to on the other end hasn’t not downloaded the Teams app, you can still connect with it via two-way SMS.

You’ll also be able to instantly mute and unmute people audio right from the taskbar, and even start presenting during a Teams call.

Welcome to widgets

We briefly glimpsed Widgets in our hands on Windows 11, but there is clearly more to it based on Microsoft’s official presentation. Right now, Widgets is a ginormous card that slides across the left side of your desktop. It appears to be a combination of news and interests from Windows 10, your phone, and more, with news, notifications, and personalized information of various kinds being sent to your PC.

Windows 11 Microsoft Widget Screen Microsoft

What will Windows 11 widgets look like a year from now?

Will there be specialized widget apps? Looks like there might be. There’s even a cool feature Microsoft has incorporated into the livestream describing the new Widgets feature (noted by the Verge): the ability to tip local content creators. “Our aspiration is to create a dynamic pipeline for global brands and local designers, in a way that consumers and designers can benefit from,” Microsoft said.

An improved Microsoft Store

Stop us in if you’ve heard this before: The Windows Store needs a makeover. Not only are there some back-end features that could be improved, the ability to find new apps isn’t as good as it could be.

Microsoft is planning to upgrade the Store, although it won’t say when, with a new user interface and better curation. “Not only will we bring you more apps than ever before, but we’re also making all content – apps, games, shows, movies – easier to find and discover with curated stories and collections,” Microsoft said.

microsoft store redo windows 11 Microsoft

This is the updated aspect of the Microsoft Store app.

Microsoft is bringing more apps to the Store, including some of its own apps that have never appeared before, such as Microsoft Teams and Visual Studio. It also adds key third-party apps, such as Disney +, Adobe Creative Cloud, Zoom, and Canva.

Microsoft Store adobe Windows 11 Microsoft Microsoft

The individual app pages are also getting a redesign.

We just hope that we can somehow store an app we’ve downloaded without needing to re-download it every time we want to add it to a new PC.

Faster Windows Updates

Some people really, really hate Windows Updates, so much so that we’ve added a how-to story to help you manage your Windows Updates. Microsoft promises to help improve Windows updates by making them smaller and faster, presumably also making them less intrusive. Historically, Microsoft has accomplished this by “knowing” exactly what your PC code is, and then delivering exactly what it needs.

DirectStorage and Auto HDR are coming to Windows

Microsoft has previously said DirectStorage, the storage backbone of the Xbox Series X, will be coming to PCs, but not when. We now know that it will arrive as part of Windows 11.

DirectStorage is a Windows API that will be used to control what Microsoft calls the Xbox Velocity architecture. This is Microsoft’s approach to reducing the storage capacity required by an Xbox Series X game, by loading the game and its assets as quickly as possible. Now it’s coming to Windows.

If you’ve recently read our great walkthrough on what HDR is and how to enable it in Windows 10, you’ve got a head start on what it means for Windows 11: AutoHDR is coming to Windows games. “When enabled on your HDR-enabled gaming PC, you’ll automatically get stunning HDR visuals on over 1,000 additional DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 games!” Hannah Fisher, program manager at Microsoft, noted in a recent blog post explaining the new feature.

autohdr heat map Microsoft

Microsoft shows how it handles luminance in a PC game when enabled with HDR. It won’t be as good as “native” HDR, but it will be close.

Did we sometimes expect AutoHDR on PC? Sure. But it’s released alongside Windows 11, which is pretty cool.

Windows 11 S is one thing

Microsoft’s simplified Windows 10 S operating system has never been well respected. Instead, we’ve posted instructions on how to upgrade to Windows 10 Home or Pro. Microsoft’s Windows 10X was originally designed to be even simpler as a straightforward challenge for Chromebooks and a possible replacement for Windows 10 S. But after canceling Windows 10X entirely, Microsoft is moving forward with a Windows 11. Home simplified in S mode.

We’ll likely see more S Mode features as Microsoft gets closer to launching Windows 11 this fall. So far, what we’ve seen has us excited.

Voice typing with punctuation

We’re introducing an eighth feature, which Microsoft quietly announced: voice dictation, but with algorithmically applied punctuation. Dictation is always one of those things that gets a little tricky, but if you can manage it it can save you time. (Try it yourself in Windows 10 by typing WIN + H).

This story was updated at 5:00 p.m. on June 24.

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