Microsoft unveils Windows 11, integrating Teams directly into flagship operating system

Windows 11 with its centered Start menu. (Microsoft Image)

Microsoft revealed the next version of its PC operating system, Windows 11, with a softer, translucent appearance and updated features focused on improving productivity across multiple devices, leveraging the company’s cloud services.

The company introduced more favorable terms for developers in its app store, in its latest broadside against Apple. It announced the direct integration of Android apps into Windows using Amazon’s app store. It also moved the Start menu to the center of the screen, confirming widespread leaks.

But the boldest move of the day could be Microsoft’s decision to integrate Teams directly into Windows 11, effectively making its communication, collaboration, and video-conferencing app a feature of the PC operating system.

Teams will appear as an icon in the Windows taskbar, letting users quickly launch video chats and conference calls with their contacts, as demonstrated by Microsoft in its online unveiling.

Microsoft’s move could escalate its standoff with Teams rival Slack and bring new regulatory scrutiny in an era when Microsoft has largely avoided the antitrust spotlight. Slack filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft in Europe last year, alleging that the company illegally bundled Teams with Office.

Salesforce later reached an agreement to acquire Slack for $27.7 billion.

Microsoft has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Apple App Store business model, in which Apple takes a 30% cut from large developers. Microsoft takes 15% for apps and 12% for games.

In its announcement today, Microsoft said app developers will be able to use outside commerce platforms in the Microsoft Store on Windows starting July 28, and keep 100% of their revenue. The company also expanded its support for apps built using different software frameworks.

The Windows 11 unveiling comes after a year in which the PC returned to the center of the technology experience for many people, amid lockdowns and stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The past 18 months brought an incredible shift in how we used our PCs; we went from fitting the PC into our lives to trying to fit our whole lives into the PC,” writes Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer for Windows and Devices, in his post introducing the new version of the operating system.

The company says Windows is now used by more than 1.3 billion people around the world.

“With Windows 11, we have a renewed sense of Windows’ role in the world,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, during the company’s online event. “Operating systems and devices should mold to our needs, not the other way around. That’s why we’re making it easy to connect with the people you want, the content you want, the apps you want, across all devices you want.”

Examples include the ability to see recent files accessed by the user on Android and iOS devices in the Windows 11 Start menu.

The new personalized feed in Windows 11. (Microsoft Image)

Microsoft is also adding a personalized feed to Windows 11, reminiscent of those available on iOS and Android, with widgets containing information from the user’s apps and online services.

Windows 11 builds on Microsoft’s “Snap” feature, which lets users quickly put open windows side-by-side. A new “Snap Layout” feature suggests different layout configurations, and “Snap Groups” lets users quickly reopen apps and windows in the layouts they previously used.

A preview of Windows 11 is expected to be available next week through Microsoft’s Windows Insider program, in advance of general availability for the 2021 holiday season, according to company officials.

Microsoft Microsoft windows Satya nadella Teams Windows Windows 11