At some point in the next few months, Microsoft will start encouraging people to upgrade to Windows 11. If we’re lucky, the company will have learned from its “Get Windows 10” debacle and will not launch a glorified malware application. Regardless of how the company approaches the topic, however, you can bet we’re all going to get blitzed with advertising one way or another.
But that lovely event/hostage-taking is still in the future. For now, Microsoft would appreciate it if everyone stopped downloading the leaked version of Windows 11 that popped up last week. In the process, the OS developer has confirmed what everybody already knew — Windows 11 is, in fact, an official thing that’s happening.
Microsoft Japan has filed a case against Beebom, a technology news publication in India. Microsoft asked Google to pull Beebom’s story on Windows 11 offline because “it contains a leaked copy of the unreleased Windows 11.” I was honestly ready to snark a bit about Microsoft attempting to secure the barn door a week after the leak, but remarks by Fossbytes actually illustrate Microsoft’s point. The site writes:
All we saw in the leaked ISO was UI changes and improvements, but the build still cannot be called a “generational update” as there are no major changes under the hood.
In fact, one of our contributors, Devin McElheran, found out that Windows 11 is essentially Windows 10 under the hood (see file version). This is enough to start questioning why Microsoft’s calling it a huge upgrade.
I’m not taking a stance on whether Fossbytes is correct, but we’ve now seen data showing that Windows 11 is faster than Windows 10 when tested on hybrid CPUs. The gains are modest, mostly in the 2-7 percent range, with one 11 percent outlier, but even a five percent performance improvement is a genuine uplift in this day and age. It’s five percent that hardware engineers didn’t have to scrape out of their own work.
It’s true that these gains might only show up if you own a hybrid CPU, and right now, that’s very few people. But this is the nature of new technological improvements. DirectX 12 had only an incremental impact on game development. When Intel and AMD introduce new SIMD instruction sets, it takes time to update software to support them. There’s always some lag time between the introduction of new features and when those features become practical and useful for virtually any user.
The question then becomes: What’s a “major change?” Windows XP SP2 looked virtually identical to Windows XP outside of a few specific places, but it incorporated a wide range of security improvements. Windows 7, when it debuted, was generally seen as “Vista, but done right.” Windows 10 may have similarly benefited from comparisons to Windows 8/8.1, an OS that is not known for its passionate and devoted user base.
I’m not certain that Windows 11 is a “huge upgrade” because ultimately, that term is in the eyes of the beholder. If Windows 11 helps x86 PCs run at lower power consumption because it pushes workloads to the small cores the way macOS does, is that a huge upgrade? If what you care about is mostly UI and the visual look and feel of the OS, maybe not. If what you care about is the long-term nuts and bolts, maybe so.
One reason Microsoft probably doesn’t want people mucking around with an early, leaked version of its OS is that it opens the door for people to draw conclusions based on incomplete data. It is impossible to explore every single nook and cranny of an operating system in a few hours (or even a few days). If Microsoft improved thread scheduling on 64-core Threadrippers, you need a 64-core Threadripper to find out. Testing for better hybrid performance requires you to own an Intel Lakefield system. Certain benefits may not appear unless tested on certain hardware.
Here’s what I suspect: Microsoft was working on future updates to Windows 10 to support Alder Lake, Lakefield, and future x86 hybrid CPUs when it decided to kill the Windows 10X project. At some point — possibly some years ago, possibly more recently — the company realized that it had a UI overhaul in one hand and a bunch of low-level improvements it wanted to make with the other. Improved scheduling and perhaps a few other under-the-hood changes will be positioned as being the technical heart of the Windows 11 update, while the UI changes make people feel as though the OS has been meaningfully visually updated.
As to whether the improvements and additions will collectively be viewed as significant? No opinion yet. We didn’t think the UI updates added up to much, either, but I’m holding the door open for some more meaningful advances on June 24.
Note: The leaked ISO we tested would not install to a PC without a TPM 2.0 processor. We don’t know if there’s more than one leak, but assuming there is not, you may need a system with such a chip. Either that, or there’s a weird bug in the Windows installer making it believe such a chip is required even when it isn’t, when encountering certain hardware configurations. Either way, we recommend installing the OS to VM or secondary system rather than risking your primary machine on a pre-release OS.
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