What is the real role of Windows 11?

In the context of Windows 11, the question is not necessarily whether it is better or worse than Windows 10 or whether it is worth upgrading. It’s about how useful it is. “What is the role of a modern desktop operating system?”

In the past, the operating system provided a convenient layer of abstraction above the hardware. This enables software developers to write applications without having to worry about the underlying hardware architecture. Device drivers from hardware manufacturers take care of the low-level programming and interfacing with the operating system.

For instance, a built-in music player provides music playback via the PC’s audio hardware. Basic video conferencing through Skype makes use of the built-in webcam. The operating system has previously benefited from developments like 4k graphics,  SSD drives and processor-level security.

Microsoft has a track record of bundling more and more features into Windows. With the rise of the internet, in spite of anti-competitive pressures, its web browser is now a core part of the operating system, providing web access out-of-the-box. Now, cloud computing blurs the line that separates the desktop environment from systems running as cloud services delivered via the internet. Windows developers not only have an interface to the underlying hardware, there are also hooks to Microsoft’s cloud-based services.

Two hats

A modern operating system wears at least two hats. Its developer hat provides application developers with a feature rich environment on which they can innovate. The end user hat is about offering a rich user experience and a strong security framework to protect the user and prevent data breaches and denial of service attacks. Some of these things require new hardware, which makes Windows 11 unsuitable for older PCs.

In fact, data from Lansweeper, based on an estimated 30 million Windows devices from 60,000 organisations, reveals that on average, only 44.4% of the workstations are eligible to receive the automatic upgrade, while the rest would be ineligible.

According to Lansweeper, only 44.4% of CPUs for workstations tested met the system requirements for upgrading to Windows 11, while 55.6% did not. Even though the majority had enough installed memory to support Windows 11, Microsoft changed the minimum processor specification, which means that it is only certified to run on PCs with a TPM (trusted platform module).

Microsoft has always bundled more and more features into its operating systems, to provide a full out-of-the-box usable PC experience. But in Windows 11 it has also set a minimum hardware security level, which is, arguably, its main objective.