Posey's Tips & Tricks
Windows 11 First Impressions, Part 2: Some Unanswered Questions
As I explained in Part 1, Microsoft's recent Windows 11 announcement was jam-packed with information about the new operating system. In some ways, however, I think the announcement left me with more questions than answers.
One of the things I found perplexing was that the bulk of Microsoft's announcement event focused on the new Windows 11 interface. While I get that the engineers who designed Windows 11 put a lot of time and effort into building this new interface -- which looks really nice, by the way -- I have to wonder why Microsoft chose to spend so much time talking about it.
I can only speculate, but with Windows being over 30 years old, there may be some who view Windows as being dated or stale. Releasing a new version of Windows complete with a reimagined interface is likely a way to draw fresh attention to Windows.
And I don't think it is a coincidence that some of the design elements are similar to things you might find in iOS, Android or macOS. I think Microsoft is trying to make Windows more appealing to the younger generation. The fact that Windows will also be capable of running Android apps further underscores the idea.
Speaking of which, the biggest news about Windows 11 is that it will be able to natively run Android apps. It is able to do this by using a technology called Intel Bridge to translate the app's instructions into something that an x86 platform can comprehend.
When I first heard about this, I immediately wondered if the support for Android apps was going to be exclusive to PCs with Intel processors. According to The Verge, however, both Intel and Microsoft have confirmed that Android apps will also be able to run on systems with AMD processors, as well as on ARM-based systems.
Another thing Microsoft briefly talked about during the Windows 11 announcement was the fact that it had done some work on Windows' support for multiple desktops. The multiple desktop feature was first introduced in Windows 10 and does exactly what the name suggests: It allows you to have more than one desktop.
The new multiple desktop feature will allow you to use a different wallpaper in each desktop. Microsoft explained that you can create a separate desktop for each way you use your PC. For example, you could create one desktop for all of your work stuff, another desktop for school stuff and yet another desktop for entertainment.
Personally, I absolutely love the idea of having different desktops for different environments. The thing I was left wondering, however, was whether any isolation boundaries will exist between desktops. For example, if I were collaborating with someone on a work project, I wouldn't want them to be able to access (or even see) anything related to my personal life. Similarly, I take a lot of online classes related to my spaceflight training and do not want to be distracted by anything work-related (recent documents lists, reminders, calendar items or anything else) while I am trying to focus on school.
I doubt that strong isolation boundaries exist between desktops or Microsoft probably would have mentioned them. If not, though, then this is an area where Microsoft could really improve Windows in the future. After all, people are using a single device for work, school and personal time more than ever before.
Over the last few years, I have heard the occasional story of people being fired from their job or suspended from school because of something on their personal laptop. As such, users need a good way to segment their devices to keep their personal lives private and away from the snoopings of an overzealous HR department.
Another thing Microsoft mentioned during its announcement was that Windows Updates are being improved. Going forward, updates will supposedly be smaller and will be installed in the background in a way that is more efficient than the current method.
As I heard that, I couldn't help but wonder if Microsoft has done anything to make update-related reboots less intrusive. I have lost work to an unwanted reboot that happened while I was away from my PC on more than one occasion.
Because Windows 11 was just announced, I have no idea what the new Windows Update will ultimately look like, but I have a suggestion for Microsoft. Right now, updates are only installed if certain conditions are met. For example, Windows won't attempt an update if a system is running on battery power and does not have enough remaining battery life to get through the update process. So why not build some additional checks into Windows that prevent updates from being applied unless certain conditions are satisfied? These checks could happen by default or they could be tied to group policy settings.
So what kinds of things should Windows Update check for? How about high CPU usage (indicating that the computer is doing something important, even if it is unattended), keyboard and mouse activity, and an application containing unsaved data?
Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.