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Microsoft takes direct aim at Google and Apple with new Windows 11 announcements

Highlights of Windows 11’s new features and Canalys’ opinion of the operating system’s likely impact.

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Written by : Trang Pham

Posted on 28/06/2021

To open the Windows 11 release announcement on 24 June 2021, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reflected on how Windows was a democratizing force for many technologies that came after it. The vision behind Windows 11, he explained, was to break barriers and build a more open platform so that its users could build the next web. While the new version of Windows comes with a major overhaul to the look of its user interface, it does something more than that, challenging the status quo and taking direct aim at Apple and Google.

There were two major announcements that demonstrated Nadella’s vision of Windows 11 as being inclusive and open. Firstly, Windows will support Android apps via Intel’s Bridge platform. It will run the apps natively, allowing users to install via Amazon’s Appstore. Users can now hail an Uber or watch TikTok without touching their phones. For the user, the implication is clear – better productivity, especially when working on multiple devices, or when you would need an Android app, such as to post a story on Instagram. It also lets users play Candy Crush on the PC! This is a huge move by Windows, aiming to eat into smartphone territory, and there is little Android can do about it. It’s good news for Android app developers, as they now have a bigger user base to address, and the prospect of listing on Amazon’s Appstore is stronger.

The icing on the cake was Microsoft’s announcement of zero app commissions from its Windows Store and the option for app developers to bring in their commerce partners, putting the spotlight back on the discussion of platform-specific app stores enjoying a monopoly, which they allegedly abuse. Be it the Apple versus Epic Games lawsuit, or the Google Play versus Indian developers altercation, the issue of app stores charging high commissions while dictating strict requirements for apps has long been a concern. Microsoft’s announcement is welcome, but it is unlikely to change things too much, as developers will still prefer to publish an Android app than to publish on the Windows Store directly. This is primarily because an Android app now targets three different platforms – Android, Chrome OS and Windows (via the Amazon Appstore).

While it is interesting to see Microsoft continue to innovate with Windows, especially after it had previously decided not to publish an update to Windows 10, the vendor has now created a well-known problem – version fragmentation. Based on Microsoft’s own data, as of 2020, less than 75% of Windows users are running Windows 10. With Windows 11 being released later this year, Microsoft must work out how to accelerate the switch of its entire Windows 10 installed base to Windows 11. The fact that Windows 11 doesn’t offer any vital features for the business or commercial end user indicates it will have a challenge ahead of it.

But we can all agree that Windows is the only platform that seems to have cracked the gaming business model, and its Xbox Game Pass, which will now be available on all PCs with Windows 11, is only going strengthen its lead over the competition.

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