Why Windows 11?

Windows 11 – MS Promotional image

Hello, I am Hector Daniel and I am here to respond to your questions on computing and technology.

The question today is… after having said that Windows 10 was to be the last version of Windows… why Windows 11? Is there any convincing reason for that?

I am writing this on December 2021… just when the very first version of Windows 11 is being deployed. Until June this year we had no idea such a thing would happen. Windows 10 was supposed to be the “last version of Windows”… well, not really the last, the last numbered one. From then on, Windows would continue to evolve, having different releases and build numbers, but not a new major version with a different number. More than a product, it was described as “an operating system as a service”.

Let’s see. Windows 10 was released in July 2015.

So, it had the version number 1507: 15 (the year), 07 (the month)

Then we had version 1511 (November 2015).

Then version 1607, the anniversary update on July 2016… and so on until version 1903, that is March 2019, which also had the name 19H1, meaning the update for the first half of year 2019… and so until now when we have version, 21H2… that is, the second yearly update for the year 2021.

This one more or less coincides with the launch of Windows 11. But why? Wasn’t Windows 10 good enough?

Well, yes and no. The point that has always haunted Microsoft is backwards compatibility. A computer that was able to run Windows 10 when it was launched would be able to run Windows 10 version 21H2 now, five years later… In fact, most computers that were able to run Windows 2007 would be perfectly capable to run the latest version Windows 10, provided they had enough memory and storage, and many do.

So, what? Why do we need a new operating system? In a word, security. You see, Windows was never that great on security. Initially, it was some of an afterthought… although it was advanced a lot since then. Nowadays, Windows is as safe as many other operating systems… and its Professional, Server and Enterprise versions are widely deployed in some critical business and services environments. Security updates are released as soon as a new threat appears or as soon as possible after a vulnerability is discovered. In just a week of June this year, Microsoft released more than 50 updates to fix vulnerabilities across both the Windows and Office ecosystems.

This is a lot. But Windows is software, and software can only do so much. So Windows cannot get safer without some hardware support. Deep hardware support, if I can say so. For several years now, computers have been launching with a feature called “Trusted Platform Module” (or TPM for short).

Mostly, this is a separate chip (a microcontroller) or a UEFI setting in firmware that can generate and store security certificates, encryption keys and sometimes passwords. The platform can detect if it is running on the proper system, and whether the hardware or the keys have been tampered with.

For the most part, this important security feature has been ignored by manufacturers, software developers and the general public. I work on computer systems, and never paid any attention to it, until July this year, when Microsoft announced that it would be among the hardware requirements for Windows 11.

So, why not add this change to Windows 10 and go on with it? The answer is: hardware compatibility. If from now on, Windows 10 would begin to require TPM support — and, most importantly, if it actively enforces its use —, then Windows 10 would begin to not work on older PCs. PCs that either do not have TPM at all, or do not have it enabled.

The latter is relatively easy to solve (and we’ll show you how), but the former (not having a TPM chip) is practically unsurmountable. So, this is it: in order to support full security in hardware, Microsoft needed a clean break, and that break is Windows 11.

But doesn’t Windows 11 have new features, a renewed interface and other advantages? Yes, it does. But this is nothing that couldn’t have been added to Windows 10. They are more of enticements to use it than something that could only run on Windows 11. Of these, perhaps the most important one is the new compatibility with Android apps, but we’ll talk about this on a future show.

Please remember to subscribe and you may leave your questions below ↓ or write to me at questions@danresp.com.

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