By Ed Lane
Microsoft’s Windows 11 has arrived in a hybrid world where working, learning, and playing are increasingly being done from home and remotely. We’re changing how we connect and that has put the personal computer on center stage, according to Panos Panay, chief product officer at the company.
“We’re living in a new era for the PC right now,” Panay said from the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, via a Microsoft Teams call with 16 journalists from across the Asian region.
Microsoft developed the first Windows operating system in 1985 and Windows 11 is the first upgrade in six years.
The new version, now available in over 190 countries, enters a world drastically changed by the pandemic. The PC has re-emerged as a central tool for people to access services such as Microsoft Teams, Microsoft 365 and other apps and services to connect and collaborate across PCs.
Close to home
Work-from-home and learn-at-home conditions during the pandemic have helped drive the re-emergence of the PC. And a new operating system that is relevant for developers, businesses, students, gamers and computer manufacturers is essential, Panay said.
Over 1 billion PC users in the world have seen how much technology has changed during the pandemic with the need for online learning, video calls and new software tools for varied equipment from makers such as ACER, ASUS, Dell and Lenovo among others to businesses moving online.
In Asia and around the world, Gen Z — those aged under 25 — are discovering PCs for the first time. How they use the new operating system, whether for gaming, to start a business or study, has made the modernization of Windows “critical.”
He drew a lesson from his own family to illustrate. Three years ago, his teenage daughter was hooked into her phone as the only device she needed, telling her father, who helped develop the Surface Pro: “I don’t need a PC, I have a phone.”
But “cut to today” and she uses a Lenovo Yoga ThinkPad and is now a dedicated PC fan.
The ‘next thing’
But the mix of applications that an operating system like Windows 11 delivers also raised a fundamental question for Panay and his design team: “What needs to be next?”
“If you think about where people are today, Windows 11 is there to meet them,” he said.
That meant the developers had to help “build the bridge” for a new generation of users that could use it in a million directions.
“We want Windows to be the most open (operating system),” Panay said, adding that is the same for developers to casual users – and in business.
“What better way to build your business than on Windows?”
Calm and personal
One aspect that rang to Windows 11 developers is that as a functional tool, the PC — whether a desktop or laptop — has become a “personal” device. People can find their PCs both familiar and new. They can create, game and work remotely. That gives a sense of freedom for users, Panay said.
“The hybrid world going forward will get better,” Panay said, adding that as an operating system, Windows brings a history to the user that is unmatched.
“We wanted to create a sense of calm for our customers,” he said. That means new features such as Snap Layouts, Widgets and Chat in Microsoft Teams work within an easy-to-use system – or a clear map on “where to go and how to get home.”
Keeping it simple for users drove Panay and the development team over the past three years with positive feedback from customers on the launch a big reward.
“If you think about where people are today, Windows 11 is there to meet them.”
“We’re pumped to be launching Windows 11; the entire user experience brings you closer to what you love, empowers you to produce and inspires you to create,” Panay said in a blog post.
But more importantly for Panay was that everyone involved in the development showed a level of commitment to bring the new version out to the world that is working in new ways.
“That’s a reflection of the team that made it,” Panay said.
TOP IMAGE: Panos Panay, Chief Product Officer, Windows + Devices at Microsoft.
Ed Lane is a journalist based in Singapore.