Microsoft has unveiled the new Windows 11 and thus opens the next chapter in Windows history, which was supposed to end with the permanent version 10. Probably the biggest surprise is that Windows 11 can run Android apps, but the designers from Redmond have also worked hard on the interface and created a new Start menu that is very reminiscent of Google’s Chrome OS.
Windows remained unchanged for decades
Microsoft Windows is one of the oldest software products that has been able to survive and remain successful over such a long period of time – from the first version in the mid-80s until today. Of course, the operating system, which was initially just a graphical user interface, had to reinvent itself again and again – but some constants remained. There are the namesake windows and the Start menu introduced with Windows 95, which has remained unchanged in its basic structure for 25 years.
The start menu as a constant – until now
The start menu and the taskbar was THE revolution, even if that is hardly comprehensible today and was refreshed or adapted with every version. With Windows 8.x, they had dared to say goodbye to the Start menu by default and replace it with the full-screen tile view, with which they wanted to force smartphone and tablet success with the sledgehammer method. Many may still remember what the first official act was after this change – namely to get rid of this view again.
Microsoft quickly realized this by MS standards and restored the classic Start menu, in which the Live Tiles only played a subordinate role. With Windows 11, they now completely say goodbye to the Tiles, but also once again to the classic Start menu. Even the sacred position of the Start button in the lower left corner has been touched for the first time. Take a look at the following screenshot of the new implementation.
Windows 11 now uses a dock view that is very reminiscent of Apple’s Mac OS and makes the Start button almost disappear next to the app icons. If you then click on the Start button, you are reminded of another competing operating system: Google’s Chrome OS. An overlay opens with a search bar at the upper edge and a following list of app icons that remind us more of a launcher than a start menu. Functionally, they do the same as before, but the approach and overview is completely different.
These borrowings from Mac OS and Chrome OS are, of course, perfectly okay, because Google and Apple are always inspired by the competition. You don’t have to keep finding new solutions just to differentiate yourself from the competition. Nevertheless, the Windows 11 implementation already resembles a complete abolition of the Start menu and a switch to the launcher / app drawer concept. In combination with the Android apps for Windows, I think this is a dangerous development for Windows – because from my personal point of view, the identity of the operating system and its GUI is lost.
Change is good and design has to stay alive, but where is the difference between Windows 11 and Chrome OS from an end-user perspective? Microsoft can hardly rely on the application base that has grown over decades, because a lot happens in the browser or in the “new” Android apps. I am very curious to see whether the second farewell to the Start menu will prevail or the users will rebel this time as well – because Microsoft does not offer the option to restore the classic view without a reason.