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Windows 11: its first major update is a major disappointment

Windows 11: its first major update is a major disappointment

Microsoft offers surprisingly little in the way of new features, future updates might be even less interesting
It’s been almost a year since the latest Windows were made available to the public, but it still feels like an incomplete product. The Windows 11 2022 Update does little to change that. (Image: Microsoft)

Without much fanfare — understandably so, all things considered — Microsoft just started rolling out the Windows 11 2022 Update, the first major one for its latest operating system since its release in October 2021. This update will not be offered to every Windows 11 PC immediately, as the company is following the same “phased approach” it did during the operating system’s original launch: newer and fully updated systems will get it first, others will follow in due time while others that may have e.g. an incompatible app or hardware driver installed will have to wait longer. It may not be a popular practice, but it’s a safe one so no complaints there.

There’s definitely cause for complaint, though, when taking a look at the embarrassingly short list of new features or even improvements that the Windows 11 2022 Update is offering to the operating system’s user base. Some tweaks here, some small additions there, but nothing that really stands out as noteworthy in the context of everyday Windows use for most people. The fact that the only two new features worth mentioning — Live Captions, which automatically generates captions for any audio content, and Voice Access, which allows people to navigate Windows on a basic level using their voice — are all about accessibility, is rather telling: Microsoft has its own priorities about what it means to add to its operating system, regardless of what the majority of its users may be asking for.

Microsoft insists on not offering enough customization options for the Windows 11 taskbar and Start menu. The company might be working on it, but there’s no official word or timeframe yet. (Image: Microsoft)

In a sense, what Microsoft insists on not offering to the Windows 11 user base is even more telling. The company, for instance, seems adamant about not letting people customize the taskbar, its context menu or the Start menu size and content in the same way or to the same degree that past versions of Windows allowed for, causing a lot of frustration in the process. Even a casual glance at Windows 11 forum threads and comments sections makes this immediately clear, yet Microsoft prefers to risk having a lot of people never migrate from Windows 10 rather than offer them the user interface options they’ve been asking for.

Speaking about the Windows 11 UI, this still seems unfinished in terms of coherence: there are several areas throughout the OS, for instance, that follow the old Windows 8/10 design, while the Dark Mode option is still half-baked. For an operating system that’s been out for almost a year now, this speaks volumes. It is also something that other operating systems — such as Apple’s macOS — would have gotten a lot of heat for, had they gone down the same road.

One of the precious few noteworthy new features the Windows 11 2022 Update offers is Voice Access, which — after some training — allows for basic Windows navigation via voice only. (Image: Microsoft)

There is precisely one (1) feature that a lot of people have been asking for — and even more people will find actually useful on a daily basis — that’s worth mentioning in the context of the Windows 11 2022 Update: multiple tabs in File Explorer, something that will make file management much easier for everyone. This will be coming to Windows 11 as a separate update in October, marking an important change in Microsoft’s way of doing things. From now on, there will still be a major OS update at some point during the autumn, but Windows 11 features’ development will be non-stop throughout the year. When Microsoft deems a new feature as finished, it will be offering it to the public on its own via Windows Update.

There’s a positive as well as a negative side to this approach. On one hand, by constantly releasing new features one by one, Microsoft gets way more news headlines about Windows 11 throughout the year (which creates a sense of progress about the product). On the other hand, this would also mean that the one major Windows 11 update every autumn will end up being even less interesting since most or even all noteworthy features will have already been offered to consumers prior to its release.

Multiple tabs are coming to Windows File Explorer at long last, but this functionality is not part of the Windows 11 2022 Update. It’s coming at some point in October on its own. (Image: Microsoft)

There is a way Microsoft could offer the best of both worlds, obviously, by offering noteworthy Windows 11 updates throughout the year as well as keeping a few of them for the major autumn update. But that would require more resources put into Windows development, which the company does not seem interested in doing anymore. So much for new beginnings, then. Just like the two operating systems themselves, the first year of Windows 11 seems much like the last few years of Windows 10: frustrating, bland and unexciting. Is anyone else looking forward to Windows 12 already?

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