So yes, it’s been two years already: Microsoft officially launched Windows 11 on October 5th, 2021 after four months of confusion and drama the likes of which had never surrounded the release of a consumer operating system before. The latest Windows version was offered to Windows 10 users as a free upgrade in a rather controversial manner, in what was clearly an unfinished state, with a number of promised features missing and a number of user interface changes few actually liked. It was, for all intends and purposes, the botched launch of an operating system nobody really asked for – which pretty much sums up what most Windows 10 users still feel about Windows 11.
Two years in, it’s fair to say that Microsoft’s latest effort to remain dominant in the consumer operating systems space has been a failure: Windows 11 has not delivered on many of its ambitious promises yet, it has not offered a meaningful uplift in performance over Windows 10 and it has not made most everyday tasks any easier for most people (some believe that it actually made things worse for Windows veterans). After numerous system updates and fixes, as well as two major system upgrades, Microsoft has delivered a number of quality-of-life improvements and a few of the initially promised features, but there are a lot of loose ends to be tied before Windows 11 gets even close to what the company described in June 2021.
The worst in all of this is the simple fact that Windows 11 still gives the impression of an unfinished operating system that’s being built while being used by hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide every day. Dark mode is still incomplete, there are many areas of the graphics user interface harking back to Windows 10 or even Windows 8 and the whole transition to Microsoft’s new “Fluent” design language is coming along but its an agonizingly slow process. The visual inconsistency that’s apparent in so many areas of Windows 11 at the moment reeks of sloppy or even non-existent planning, which is unacceptable when it comes to operating systems striving to achieve market dominance.
If Windows 11 was a work in progress just in terms of looks, it would still be embarrassing but tolerable. Various problems with certain PC configurations, though, as well as issues tied to critical system files and procedures, still rear their ugly head more often than not (usually upon deploying insufficiently tested Windows updates). These botched updates require fixes that take time to find their way to consumers’ PCs, which is far from ideal. It may not be the kind of mess one would call intolerable, but having consumers put up with blue screens of death and boot loops in 2023 is not OK either.
In stark contrast to all of this – which is what Microsoft should have focused on to ensure that Windows 11 is a stable, reliable, fast operating system – stands the company’s insistent push into artificial intelligence territory with the recent integration of ChatGPT. This was ill-advised and leaves a lot to be desired (based on initial impressions offered by many Windows 11 users online), but it’s also indicative of Microsoft’s current priorities. If a company does not care enough to nail the basics of an operating system, benefiting consumers, but chooses to implement experimental, even potentially dangerous features in the hopes of improving its place in the search market instead, there’s not much else to say, is there?
Taking all of that into account, it really is no wonder that consumers have pretty much rejected Windows 11: Microsoft’s latest OS has yet to reach 24% of all Windows installations currently active, which is less than what Windows 10 – a controversial OS too, initially – had achieved around its own 2-year anniversary. Windows 10 currently represents almost 72% of the Windows customer base as a whole and, interestingly enough, it has done so for more than a year: this means that Windows 10 users that do have the option to migrate to Windows 11 simply refuse to do so, despite the necessary update being offered free of charge. Almost every additional percentage of Windows 11 market share comes from sales of new computers: those come with Windows 11 pre-installed, so consumer choice is practically forced there. Microsoft even had to cease offering Windows 10 activation keys for purchase, because a lot of consumers building their PCs themselves and even a small number of PC builders preferred installing Windows 10 on their machines instead of Windows 11.
Short of a miracle, it currently seems that Windows 11 will end up being one of the least popular versions of Microsoft’s famous – or infamous, depending on one’s views regarding privacy – operating system. Stronger security is important and a refreshed user interface is nice, but consumers clearly feel that these are not good enough reasons to migrate from a proven, mature operating system not plagued with issues to an operating system that’s still incomplete. If Microsoft keeps on fixing things and adding promised features at the pace it currently does, Windows 11 may become the operating system it set out to be… by spring or summer 2024, maybe? By then, though, we’ll all be expecting to hear more about Windows 12, which is widely thought to target a Q4 2024 release. Funny how that works out, no?