Windows 11: Should I or shouldn’t I?

Plug-in TPM module on Win 11 image

The question today is… should I or shouldn’t I?

Windows 11 is with us, although most people have to see it yet (even us). Should you get it or should you not? And how soon?

So, why do we have Windows 11 when Windows 10 was to be the last numbered version of Windows?

As I said in my previous show here ↑ in order to tighten security, Microsoft had to “activate” a security mode (called TPM for Trusted Platform Module) that already existed since 2006 (and, in its current version 2.0, since 2018. So, nothing new, but nothing that had any extensive use before now.

Why then? Well, because a computer with TPM 2.0 becomes a “Trusted Platform”; that is, from the very beginning, that is, from the boot-up, the operating system and the applications can be sure that they are working on a trusted piece of hardware, that has not been tampered with. This obviously makes hacking more difficult… but surprisingly this is not the main point.

Some experts say that the only thing that TPM really protects against is against hackers that have physical access to the computer (but not to its internal circuitry). As this is not a major risk in many situations, its utility is limited. But what it does provide is a very good way of providing a unique identifier for the machine. This is excellent for many purposes, but mainly it provides advertisers and software developers a unique way of permanently identifying a PC and, by derivation, its owner or its main user.

This is not taking our best interests at heart… it is theirs. But it is the culmination, for now, of a process that has been growing for decades now: more and more control and tracking of individuals and their machine for many purposes. In the western world, mainly commercial purposes… but in other parts of the world, government tracking of users. The main commercial purpose is to assure that software is installed only on machines that have current licenses.

There is another reason for Microsoft releasing Windows 11. And it is hardware control.

You may say this is the same as the one before. TPM is a hardware feature… Well, yes. But this goes further. Microsoft has always seen themselves as disadvantaged relative to Apple because Apple keeps a tight control on their hardware. This allows them to have also better software, because they can control on the hardware it runs. This has even allowed them to change the underlying hardware architecture three times: from the Motorola processor series to PowerPC IBM processors, to x96 (that is, Intel) processors and now to the “Apple Silicon” series. These are big, fundamental, changes. Microsoft, instead, has been forced to keep “backwards compatibility”, and they are stuck (mostly) with the x86 (Intel) CPU architecture. Not only that, every version of Windows has had to “look behind”, and accommodate most previous versions up to maybe twenty years. For instance, most Windows 2000 programs can still run on Windows 10, more than twenty years after.

Well, not anymore. With Windows 11, Microsoft is marking a clear break: If hardware is not up to certain standards, it will not be able to run Windows 11. These standards are still relatively modest, and they do not fully contemplate a change of the underlying processor architecture… but they are there, anyway. From Windows 11, Microsoft will not be forced to provide backwards compatibility for anything before… Windows 11.

And what will happen to Windows 10 users? Not to worry, the official support for Windows 10 will continue at least until July 2025; and if what happened with Windows 7 is anything to go by, then probably for some years after that too…

And Windows 11 will be more widely available on ARM architectures too. But we will talk about this on a future show.

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