Windows 11: everything you need to know about Microsoft’s latest OS

Windows’ latest operating system offering was unveiled today at their virtual event, boasting the arrival of the “next generation of Windows”.

The announcement comes somewhat of a shock to the tech world who were told that Windows 10 would be the final version of the Windows OS with over 1.3 billion user devices.

However due to the rapidly changing, hybrid working environment emerging from the pandemic and the announcement that Windows 10 would no longer receive extended support past 2025, it appears that Microsoft are updating the OS platform to incorporate the working from home demands from its users.

Microsoft CEO Natya Sadella agreed saying “We need to be empowered to choose the applications we run, the content we consume, the people we connect to, and even how we allocate our own attention”. He further stated that “operating systems and devices should mould to our needs, not the other way around.”

New centralised task bar interface layout in night mode

These demands are being met with features such as tighter integration with Microsoft Teams directly into the centralised task bar (a significant shift away from the attachments to Skype) and the blending of the Xbox Series X’s Auto HDR graphical enhancements along with Xbox Games Pass; both come pre-installed.

The focus of Windows 11 revolves around the simplification of the standard Windows user interface whilst increasing performance and multitasking functionality. Microsoft executive, Panos Panay revealed that Windows 11 Updates are 40% smaller that its OS predecessors and gone are the days of work being interrupted by Windows Updates as they now are downloaded and installed without the need for system shutdown.

Snap Layouts for compartmentalisation of multiple screens

Additionally, the new ‘Snap Layouts’ promote easier movement of apps to defined compartments of the screen for easier multitasking and the OS will remember collections of apps open on external monitors when the PC/Laptop is unplugged thanks to ‘Snap Groups’ – mirroring certain characteristics of the cancelled, dual screen Windows 10X project.

A further major change comes as part of the Microsoft Store which, through Microsoft’s partnership with Intel and Amazon, now allows developers to distribute their apps through the Microsoft Store without sharing revenue and Windows systems will be able to support Android apps using the Amazon AppStore. Developers can even use their own payment systems within the Microsoft Store.

Before today’s virtual launch, a first build of the OS was leaked allowing for a quick glimpse of the evolved ‘Sun Valley’ interface – with a Start Menu in the centre of the main task bar with a return of Windows Widgets in the form of an AI-powered personalised feed. Widget types include a news feed, maps and weather. This evolution of Widgets signals the quiet removal of the controversial Live Tiles introduced with Windows 8.

Windows 11 will be available as a free update to existing Windows 10 users requiring 64 GBs of storage and 4GBs of RAM, but only for ‘eligible PCs’ – those with two or more cores and a clock speed of 1GHz or higher.

A preview early test version of the new system will be released for app developers as part of the Windows Insider beta testing programme in the beginning of July 2021. A public access version is expected to be made available in October 2021 without new hardware speculated to be released alongside.

 


Microsoft announce end of support for Windows Server 2008

Support and security updates for Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 operating systems will end in January 2020.

Customers operating Windows Server 2008 will then cease to receive security patches and other important system updates.

Around 70% of the world’s server operating systems are Windows based, with Server 2008 one of the most successful versions, still representing more than half of these installations as recently as 2016.

Users of Server 2008 and 2008 R2 have just over 6 months to decide whether to upgrade to a newer version of Windows Server (such as the long-awaited Server 2019, hardware permitting), replace servers with newer models, or migrate those server-based processes to a cloud-based platform, such as Microsoft Azure.

‘Mainstream’ Support for Server 2008 is unlikely to be extended – having already been granted temporary extensions, once from July 2013 to January 2015, and again to the final deadline next year.

As with previous operating systems, enterprise customers will have the option of purchasing ‘Premium Assurance’ support packages of different levels, to extend support as late as 2026 – but as with other legacy Windows products, for increasingly high associated costs.

Businesses will need to weigh up for how long they can afford to delay upgrading, or depending on the physical server hardware, whether it makes more sense to spurn the licensing costs of upgrading the Windows Server version and go directly to either the cloud, or a new server.

 

For IT infrastructure support and expertise, please contact our team today.


Smarter working: why you need Office 2016

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Microsoft Office 2016 is here: the staple of word processing, spreadsheets and presentation work everywhere is now available for single purchase on Windows 10 and Mac OS X.

Office 2016’s apps will look very familiar to existing customers – but Office 2016 is undoubtedly ‘smarter’ than any previous version of Office, with its most impressive new features aimed at boosting productivity for both home and business customers.

Take Microsoft’s new ‘Smart Lookup’ function for example – click a single word in a document and Office will web search that term (via Bing) within the window, allowing instant research.

Cleverly, Office 2016 will even infer from the context of the surrounding paragraph the exact meaning of the word being searched for, preventing irrelevant homonyms clouding your search results. A neat trick certainly, but also an important one for certain sectors – for instance helping children do school work with protection against loading inappropriate search results based on words with double-meanings.

It is a similar case with 2016’s new ‘Tell me’ function. Gone are the clunky help menus or cartoon paperclips – ‘Tell’ Word for a tool like ‘mail merge’ or ‘footnotes’ and the Office 2016 apps will not load search results, but immediately take you to the exact menu and function needed.

The latest version allows for collaborative working (finally catching up with rival Google Drive) with multiple users able to edit documents in real time with a visible tracked changes function, from remote locations if needed. As an added bonus, Office is integrated with Skype, aimed at making the process of collaborative working more easily communicated.

Part of productivity is personal though, so Office 2016 also introduces ‘Office 365 Planner’, an app aimed at time and project management. Even Outlook will attempt to shave a few minutes off your day by linking attachments from cloud-based OneDrive and introducing ‘Clutter’, an automated email filtering service which avoids distractions by pushing less relevant emails into a separate folder, helping you to best utilise your time. Office 2016 knows that time is worth money, and for some may be a very smart investment indeed.

 

Need advice on software for your business, or help migrating to Microsoft Office 365 services? Lineal can help – contact us today: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 


Windows 10 – Surviving your first two weeks

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Microsoft’s Windows 10 has been available to home PC users for more than two weeks now – but as more users get chance to test its features, how has the new operating system fared against the initial scrutiny of the news cycle?

With more than 67m devices now running Windows 10, some horror stories have already graced the internet post-migration. Not everyone has had an easy upgrade, with some users reporting touchpad or connectivity problems. Windows 10’s propensity to slideshow images, pulled from users’ ‘My Pictures’ Folder into the start menu, has caused the obvious hilarity. Some unfortunate early adopters found their PC displaying adult content from deep in their personal files played in an embarrassing slideshow.

The most widespread complaint though has been Microsoft’s new ‘Wi-Fi Sense’ feature. WiFi Sense by default allows your contacts and Skype friends shared access to your Wi-Fi network credentials without handing over a password. This has prompted serious security and privacy concerns.

The fuss here is not entirely without basis, with the tech community correctly noticing that even if Wi-Fi Sense doesn’t share access from your immediate friend on to a third party, in reality your immediate friend may share access to your network to a third party via their own Wi-Fi Sense if your friend has obtained the password first hand – either from you or via a written source.

Users merely need to turn off Wi-Fi Sense, but it’s important that those making the upgrade are aware of the need to make a decision over protecting their own network security.

Overall though, these problems are a shadow of the grief that Windows 8 gave Microsoft, and here at Lineal we’ve generally been impressed by the transition – the majority of our customers who have wanted to upgrade to the new operating system have done so without incident. The removal of Windows 8 style full-page apps, the introduction of the new Edge browser and the welcome return of the Start Menu have all been greeted warmly by a worldwide user base that has clearly felt listened too.

Most importantly, because some internet stories have reported lost files after upgrade, the golden rule still stands – if you have important data, always make sure this is backed up elsewhere, just in case.

If you’d like advice and support upgrading your systems – why not click here to see what Lineal could offer your business: http://www.lineal.co.uk/systems/