Microsoft is changing how it releases significant versions of Windows, and it could mean we see a Windows 12 release in 2024. Microsoft is shifting back to a three-year release cycle for Windows, which means the next major version of Windows is now due in 2024.
It’s another significant change to how Microsoft develops Windows. Microsoft originally moved away from its three-year cycle with the release of Windows 10 in 2015, prioritizing the idea of Windows as a service.
Instead of a significant release of features every three years in a new Windows release, Windows 10 was updated twice a year with prominent new features. For years, many Windows watchers thought Windows 10 would be the last big bang release of Windows after a Microsoft employee described Windows 10 as “the last version of Windows.”
Microsoft never dismissed those comments and instead said at the time they were “reflective of the way Windows will be offered as a service bringing innovations and updates in an ongoing manner.” That all adjusted with the release of Windows 11 last year, and Microsoft moved to an annual update cadence for Windows 10 and 11.
Another significant change to Microsoft Windows development, given Microsoft’s move to the Windows 11 branding, it’s reasonable to expect that any future major version of Windows would also see a branding change. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen Microsoft adopt Windows 11.1 or 11.2 with its major Windows 11 updates, so many will now wonder if Windows 12 is on the way.
Alongside the next version of Windows in 2024, Microsoft still has plans to keep Windows 11 fresh in the years ahead. However, the software maker has been moving away from its original promise of significant annual updates for Windows 11 in recent months, preferring to ship major features once they’re ready. The next major update, 22H2, is expected to arrive in September or October after Microsoft recently finalized it.
Microsoft has reportedly scrapped plans for a similar big 23H2 annual update in 2023 and will now prioritize rolling out new features throughout 2023 instead. It lines up more closely with Microsoft’s recent changes to its Windows Insider program, with more experiments and prototype features being tested widely.
Microsoft hasn’t officially commented on its Windows roadmap plans. However, the company has renewed efforts into Windows over the past two years after the pandemic boosted Windows usage. Microsoft had initially planned to launch Windows 10X on dual-screen devices, but after declaring “the PC is back” at the pandemic’s beginning, it reworked 10X into what became Windows 11.
Windows 11 is the latest significant release of Microsoft’s Windows NT operating system, unleashed in October 2021. It is a free upgrade to its precursor, Windows 10 (2015), available for any Windows 10 devices that fulfill the new Windows 11 system requirements.
Windows 11 features significant modifications to the Windows shell influenced by the canceled Windows 10X. It includes a redesigned Start menu, replacing its “live tiles” with a separate “Widgets” panel on the taskbar. It can assemble tiled sets of windows that can be minimized and updated from the taskbar as a group and the latest gaming technologies inherited from Xbox Series X and Series S, like Auto HDR and DirectStorage on compatible hardware. In addition, the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge has replaced Internet Explorer (IE) as the default web browser with its predecessor, Windows 10, and Microsoft Teams is incorporated into the Windows shell. Microsoft also announced plans to let more flexibility in software distributed via Microsoft Store and to support Android apps on Windows 11.
Mentioning security considerations, the system needs for Windows 11 were improved over Windows 10. As a result, Microsoft officially supports the operating system on devices using an eighth-generation Intel Core CPU or newer AMD Ryzen CPU based on Zen+ microarchitecture or newer.
In addition, it may have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 ARM system-on-chip or more unique, with UEFI safe boot and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 supported and enabled. However, while the OS can be installed on unsupported processors, Microsoft does not guarantee the availability of updates. In addition, Windows 11 withdrew support for 32-bit x86 CPUs and devices which utilize BIOS firmware.
Windows 11 has obtained a mixed reception. The pre-release scope of the operating system focused on its stricter hardware needs, with discussions over whether they were legitimately planned to improve the security of Windows or as a ploy to upsell users to newer devices and over e-waste associated with the changes. However, it was applauded upon release for its improved visual design, window management, and a stronger focus on security. Still, it was criticized for various modifications to aspects of its user interface, which were seen as worse than its predecessor.
Nevertheless, as of May 2022, Windows 11 is the 2nd most prevalent Windows edition on Windows PCs in the US, at 11%, and in some other countries after Windows 7, far behind Windows 10, which stands at 77% in the United States. Across all platforms, Windows 11 runs on a share of 2.6% of PCs.