It’s not “Windows 12”: Microsoft maintains the Windows 11 brand despite major changes

Enlarge / The new Surface Laptop with Arm technology. All of these Copilot+ PCs are shown with an updated version of the Windows 11 “Bloom” wallpaper.

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Microsoft is announcing some pretty big changes to Windows and the Surface line as part of its Build developer conference this week, but there’s one thing that’s definitely No Coming soon, at least not now: a Windows 12 update.

Speculation about the “Windows 12” update began to spread sometime last year in reports suggesting that Microsoft was returning to a three-year release cycle like those used for Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10 in late the 2000s and early 2010s.

And Microsoft may have intended to call this fall’s release “Windows 12” at some point, and it comes with substantial changes both above and under the hood to better support Arm systems and emphasize Microsoft’s focus on the AI.

“We’re really focused on modernizing this Windows 11 update,” Microsoft corporate vice president of Windows and Devices Pavan Davuluri said at a technical briefing on the Microsoft campus in mid-April. “We designed this Windows 11 update with a real focus on AI inference and leveraging the Arm64 instruction set at every layer of the operating system stack. For us, what this really meant was building a new compiler on Windows. We built a “New kernel in Windows in addition to that compiler. “We now have new programmers in the operating system that take advantage of this new SoC architecture.”

Microsoft did not say whether the updated system components would have any notable benefits for users of current x86 systems, although these updates are likely the reason why the operating system has gone from “unsupported” to “unbootable” on some systems with older 64-bit versions. x86 bit processors.

Even with these changes, at some point the company made the decision to stay the course with Windows 11’s UI and branding rather than starting from scratch and discarding any momentum Windows 11 had managed to achieve. By some metrics, Windows 11 usage has continued its slow but steady rise; for others, it has mostly stalled this year. Leaked internal data suggests that Windows 11 currently has between 400 and 500 million active users, a slower pace of adoption than Windows 10 at this point in its lifecycle.

Whatever Microsoft decides to call it, Windows version control doesn’t have much to do with the fundamentals of the operating system. The first version of Windows 11 was essentially Windows 10 with a new UI on top; It was once known as “Windows 10X,” and the Windows 11 branding was a surprise when it was announced three years ago. Many apps and games continue to identify it as a version of Windows 10.

Microsoft decided to impose stricter system requirements for Windows 11 than for Windows 10, but these are enforced through a handful of easy-to-tweak registry settings. Once you bypass Secure Boot requirements or a TPM 2.0 module, the first versions of Windows 11 will install and run on virtually any 64-bit PC that can run Windows 10, highlighting its shared foundation. Even with the newer processor requirement, unsupported installations will still work on basically any PC made in the last 12 or 13 years (the official system requirements remain unchanged).

The Windows 11 24H2 update will come to most Windows 11 PCs when it officially launches later this fall, although Windows Insiders in the development channel can get the in-progress version of the update now.

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