Today, we shared details about the future of Windows and how we are developing new experiences to enhance the way we work today, and in the future.
We released Windows 11, the operating system designed for hybrid work, just over six months ago and are energized to hear how our customers, like Tower, are finding new ways to empower employees and move their business forward.
Talking to customers is one of the best parts of my role as General Manager for the Microsoft 365 business, and I learn a lot from every conversation—whether with an enterprise leader or a small business owner. Our team has also received a lot of feedback and input about the past two years and how it has forever changed the way we work, and I‘ve observed this just walking around my neighborhood in Atlanta—the way we work is different. Our work lives are in many cases more flexible, but also more complex. It makes sense, then, that the one thing I always hear is that organizations want solutions that are streamlined across their IT infrastructure, and seamless and easy for their employees to use.
We recently released the 2022 Work Trend Index, which surveyed 31,000 people in 31 countries around the world. What we’ve learned from our 2021 and 2022 research is that this rapidly changing landscape is shaping how we think about how technology serves us at work. This has been our inspiration for the features we announced today and how we will continue to innovate in Windows for organizations and employees, helping our customers transform how we connect, collaborate, and communicate.
The most compelling data we gleaned from the Work Trend Index is that 73 percent of employees want flexible or remote options and see this as a more permanent way of working. That’s more than two-thirds of people surveyed—a compelling statistic.
As a leader at Microsoft who was hired during the pandemic and works fully remote, I can relate to the new challenges businesses are navigating in moving employees to a more permanent remote or hybrid work setting, and the challenge employees sometimes face in different environments.
So, I’m excited to build off what Panos Panay, Chief Product Officer, shared today and give you some more details about the new features we are building in Windows 11 to power your businesses and your people, no matter where they are working.
Here’s what’s coming to Windows 11.
A faster, more dynamic Windows 11 experience powered by the cloud
Last year, we introduced Windows 365, the world’s first Cloud PC, to give people a simple way to stream their entire Windows experience from the Microsoft cloud. This means an individual employee’s personal settings, apps, and contents can be securely accessed on any device. And it’s persistent and always ready to go, so they can pick up right where they left off because Windows is streaming from the cloud. I’ve heard from many customers who are finding new uses for the Windows 365 Cloud PCs in critical hybrid work scenarios—from elastic workforces like interns or contractors to high-scale computing needs like developers, to remote workers and secure bring your own PC (BYOPC) needs. Windows 365 is easy to scale up so it’s particularly useful in times of change, like mergers and acquisitions. Coats, the world’s largest industrial thread manufacturer, was an early adopter of Windows 365.
Extending Windows to the cloud opens up new solutions that can help accelerate digital transformation by utilizing the power, intelligence, and capacity of the cloud to augment device capabilities. According to Gartner®, 72 percent of infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders have invested or intend to invest in cloud-based user computing solutions during the next 24 months.
As the pandemic begins to slowly recede, and companies look to adopt more permanent hybrid work strategies, new integrated features are needed to enable more flexible ways of working.
So, we’re bringing the power of the cloud and familiarity of the PC together, giving people an even more seamless Windows experience without sacrificing security.
With Windows 365 Boot, I’ll be able to log directly into my Windows 365 Cloud PC at startup and designate it as my primary Windows experience on the device. This makes Windows 365 an even better solution for those temporary or frontline workforces I mentioned, where sharing devices and bring your own device (BYOD) scenarios are common. It allows different users to log in directly to their own personal and secure Windows 365 Cloud PC with their credentials.
If you are like me, you know the power of switching between desktop surfaces in Windows 11. Now we’re adding Windows 365 Switch, which will enable me to move between my Windows 365 Cloud PC and the local desktop just like I do between different desktops today in the Task switcher. I’ll even be able to use the same familiar keyboard commands, as well as a mouse-click or swipe gesture.
A new native Windows 365 app will give me another way to get straight to my Windows 365 Cloud PC from the taskbar or Start menu. All with a desktop path to my Windows 365 Cloud PC, providing a personal, customized welcome experience to tailor my settings, profile, and work style.
We are also working to deliver Windows 365 Offline, which will enable work in Windows 365 even when disconnected. When connectivity is restored, the Windows 365 Cloud PC will automatically resync with the Windows 365 service without data loss so the user experience and workflow are persistent.
New inclusive and intelligent experiences and features for employees
In our most recent Work Trend Index research, we learned that 51 percent of people want a job that gives them the option to be fully remote, but they prefer a hybrid experience. The best news is that Windows 11, while designed for hybrid work, works for all scenarios—whether remote, onsite, or hybrid.
Today, I want to share with you some of my favorite new experiences coming soon to Windows 11 to make everyone working in these modern environments more effective. Best of all, these features are designed with accessibility in mind so everyone can enjoy the benefits of Windows 11.
I love how easy the centered Start menu design in Windows 11 is, and I’m excited to share how we’re building on that with new app folders right inside the Start menu. Now, I can enjoy the simplicity of organizing and easily finding apps on my Windows 11 desktop just as I’ve been able to do on my mobile device and tablet.
Refreshed File Explorer in Windows 11 to help you find what you need fast
One of my favorite announcements today is the refreshed experience in File Explorer. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent looking for important files and folders over the years. Now, finding files is a breeze with new contextual suggestions in Windows powered by Context IQ. This recommends relevant content and contacts across Windows—including content to the cloud. For example, I can see what files I might want, including files that my frequent collaborators are working on that I also have access to.
And with Tabs in File Explorer, I’ll be able to multitask and find multiple files at the same time.
During our 2022 Work Trend Index research, we found that 35 percent of employees surveyed say they wish they could spend more time working on solitary or focused work in order to be more impactful or productive, which is why we are introducing new capabilities in Focus for Windows.
Save time with new features in Focus for Windows 11
As a senior leader at Microsoft, I’m in meetings most of my day, and it’s often challenging to find time to get important work done. I’ve found Focus to be one of the most impactful tools to increase my own productivity. Focus was first introduced in Windows 10 to limit visual distractions and reduce clutter on the desktop. Today, Focus inside Microsoft Viva Insights helps me protect my valuable time by automatically scheduling focus time based on my schedule for the next work week. This has been a game-changer for me. And today, I’m happy to share the new features coming to Focus in Windows 11, such as an integrated focus timer and do not disturb feature that makes it even easier to track and personalize my focus time.
More natural hybrid meeting experiences powered by AI
As companies continue to take a hybrid approach, we are delivering new advancements to make virtual and hybrid meetings and collaboration feel more natural. These features* include automatic framing to refocus your camera as you move around, voice clarity, voice focus, and background blur to reduce visual and audio distractions in the background. One of my favorites of these new AI-based features is called eye contact, which improves eye contact during virtual meetings and video calls.
Better audiovisual experiences with Live Captions in Windows 11
We are always looking for ways to improve the experience with accessible features, and today we’re making Windows 11 better for the deaf and hard of hearing communities, as well as language learners with Live Captions. This new feature empowers people to easily access captions from all audio experiences and apps across Windows, including web-based audio, such as audio from your favorite streaming websites. I love turning on captions when I’m watching my favorite shows, so this is another incredible experience we are bringing to Windows 11.
Multitasking is a snap with improved Snap layouts
What did we do before Snap layouts? I love this feature in Windows 11. It may be the feature I use the most as I’m always using multiple windows throughout the day. It’s so easy to snap together two or more related windows when I’m doing research or to multitask on up to four separate projects simultaneously. We’re always looking for ways to help people work smarter, not harder. So, now, I’m excited we are adding touch Snap layouts for touch-enabled devices. This capability is going to improve work for so many, including frontline workers using touch devices in their day-to-day work.
Empowering IT superheroes with modern management
IT departments had one of the most complex undertakings during the pandemic—keeping the digital estate of their entire, distributed workforce connected, up-to-date, and performing. And doing that as the IT administrators themselves were also working remotely added even greater complexity. With the diversity of devices used across the enterprise device landscape, including physical and Windows 365 Cloud PCs, IT truly needed to be superheroes to keep all the endpoints secure and productive.
It is cloud management in Microsoft Endpoint Manager that provides IT with the needed flexibility to protect and configure endpoints for a productive workforce as well as unlock the new features and functionality for Windows. With Windows 11 built as a cloud-powered OS, Endpoint Manager is key to helping organizations keep their devices up-to-date and upgraded when ready.
Another way to keep things updated is with our new automated service, Windows Autopatch, designed to free up IT teams everywhere by making Windows and Microsoft 365 update management easier than ever. Autopatch offers IT peace of mind when it comes to ensuring endpoints are healthy, protected, and compliant, thus enabling them to focus on other business challenges.
Autopatch enables IT to strike the right balance between rollout speed and stability thanks to a ring-based, gradual deployment. It helps you get current and stay current while hardening endpoints against threats and increasing productivity by deploying new features with minimal friction and risk. If issues arise, they won’t turn into interruptions—the service can stop and even reverse updates, which means we’ve got you covered. Windows Autopatch will be available in July 2022 as part of the Windows E3 offering. Learn more about Autopatch in this blog.
Providing flexibility and data protection
Application management for Microsoft Edge enables people to access organizational resources from an unmanaged device while giving IT the ability to control the conditions under which the resources can be accessed. With app protection policies applied from Endpoint Manager, administrators will be able to configure how data flows in and out of the organization as well as define acceptable threat levels. This allows more businesses to safely employ a BYOD model, or empower employees to access company information through personal devices without compromising privacy or protection.
Improve communication with targeted messages in Windows 11
I am also excited about a new communications function that empowers IT to send targeted organizational messages directly to users across various surfaces, such as on the desktop, lock screen, or right above the taskbar. Imagine being able to share helpful messages to new employees onboarding or reminders for important training that might otherwise get lost in email. From the Endpoint Manager admin center, IT can create messages, provide customized links or URLs, configure the viewing frequency, and of course define the targeted set of users for the message based on the integration with Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD).
A new era for endpoint management adds more simplicity
Our goal is to simplify what it takes for IT to protect the endpoints across their user computing landscape to help organizations support a Zero Trust security model. We are excited to enter a new era for endpoint management, one that will provide an expanded set of advanced solutions and capabilities in Endpoint Manager designed to increase endpoint security, improve user experience, and reduce the total cost of ownership of your digital estate. We are bringing together additional mission-critical endpoint and security management tools into a single, cloud-powered solution and it starts today. Read more about the news of our vision for advanced endpoint management in this Microsoft 365 blog and learn about our plans to introduce a series of premium solutions over time that will help protect endpoints in the cloud, on-premises, and across device platforms, foundational for organizations striving to achieve a Zero Trust architecture.
The 2022 Work Trend Index highlighted that more than 50 percent of hybrid employees are considering going fully remote in the next year, so on-site tech support can no longer be the only option to resolve complex technical issues. Today we are launching the first of our premium solutions in Endpoint Manager for general availability, remote help for Windows, a cloud-based, remote assistance tool that provides a secure, trusted helpdesk to user connections. The endpoint is the new workplace. Providing resolutions to users—delivered by the right helper, with the right permissions, at the right time—is crucial for organizations in today’s hybrid world.
Help keep hybrid work safe with new security features
Given the fast-changing cybersecurity landscape, we continue to see accelerating with new threats today, it wasn’t surprising to see that cybersecurity issues and risks was the number one concern for business leaders around the world. To help address those concerns, we’re introducing new security features coming to Windows 11 to make the most secure version of Windows we’ve ever built even more secure for hybrid and remote employees.
With built-in chip to the cloud protection, Windows 11 helps organizations address the new security challenges of the hybrid workplace, now and in the future. With every release, we are making Windows more secure by default and today we’re thrilled to show you how Windows powers the future of business.
We are all potential targets of sophisticated phishing and other cyberattack attempts. I’m excited about future Windows 11 updates we are adding, like enhanced phishing detection and protection built into Windows with Microsoft Defender SmartScreen. We are also bringing more protection against malware, ransomware, data loss, and the serious risk of hardware attacks if a device is stolen. We’ve designed security in Windows to be simple for all—for businesses large and small, from IT to consumers. Our Windows customers will benefit from layers of tightly integrated hardware and software security from the chip to the cloud, designed to help protect our customers from wherever and however they choose to work. To learn more about the security innovations coming to Windows 11, visit the Security Blog.
Taking the journey to hybrid work, together
As workplaces and world events continue to evolve, so too will the needs of your employees and organization. That’s why we designed Windows 11 to be the most flexible, secure, and productive solution for hybrid work. The features we announced today ensure that you can continue to count on Windows to move your business forward with cloud-powered technology and services that adapt and evolve to meet today’s challenges and tomorrow’s.
Creating a durable hybrid work environment is a journey. Microsoft is on its own journey, learning as we go just like you are. That’s why we wanted to share our own Windows 11 deployment story with you, so we can all be students of the time, together. I invite you to check out my conversation with Nathalie D’Hers, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Digital Employee Experience, highlighting the employee experience, and our case study on deploying Windows 11 at Microsoft.
One of our biggest learnings as “customer zero” for Windows 11 adoption is just how easy it was to do using familiar tools and processes like Windows Update for Business, Autopilot for new PCs, and tools in Microsoft Endpoint Manager like Endpoint Analytics to measure device health and status. With its common core and consistency across admin functions, it is easy to run Windows 10 and Windows 11 in your environment, side-by-side. And to ensure that we’re supporting you throughout your migration journey, we offer engineering-led services like Fast Track, as well as App Assure and Test Base, a powerful combination to help make sure that all of your apps are compatible.
ITC Secure, one of our earliest adopters of Windows 11, enjoyed the fast and simple process of migrating their organization and is now taking advantage of the full benefits of Windows 11.
Windows is designed for hybrid work and is ready for you today. Thank you for trusting Windows to be the platform for your business now and in the future. You can learn more about how Windows is extending to the cloud with Windows 365 here, and be sure to check out our Tech Community site for more in-depth information on features, deployment guidance, and best practices to help you on your journey to Windows 11.