In a mad bid to make the holiday selling season, Microsoft announced today that it will release Windows 11 on October 5, 2021. Objectively, that’s well before the OS will be truly ready for users and it is literally just three months after its first public beta. (Also, was November 11—11/11—too perfect?)
“The free upgrade to Windows 11 starts on October 5 and will be phased and measured with a focus on quality,” Microsoft’s Aaron Woodman writes. “We want to make sure we’re providing you with the best possible experience. That means new eligible devices will be offered the upgrade first. The upgrade will then roll out over time to in-market devices based on intelligence models that consider hardware eligibility, reliability metrics, [the] age of [the] device, and other factors that impact the upgrade experience. We expect all eligible devices to be offered the free upgrade to Windows 11 by mid-2022.”
Don’t feel overly cynical if you see that date—mid-2022—as the real release date. By that time, the OS will have benefited from several more months more of feedback, bug fixes, and other updates, and it will have arrived at a state of readiness and reliability that will be impossible by October.
Also, Microsoft admits that one of the single biggest promised features of this release, Android app compatibility along with its associated Amazon Appstore integration in the Microsoft Store, won’t even ship until next year: buried in the original blog post is the first and only mention of the term “Android,” when Mr. Woodman notes that Microsoft looks forward to “to continuing [the] journey to bring Android apps to Windows 11 and the Microsoft Store through our collaboration with Amazon and Intel; this will start with a preview for Windows Insiders over the coming months.”
Helping its PC maker partners, Woodman also pimps out select third-party PC models that ship now with Windows 10 but are Windows 11 ready and will get the free upgrade. He also specifically mentions the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Laptop 4, two aging designs that will almost certainly be updated in the coming months as well.
I’m trying not to spin off in a dark direction here. After all, we have known about the October “release” since June, and I’ve routinely mentioned October as the release time frame. But it’s still disappointing to watch Microsoft talk quality and reliability when what it’s really doing is shipping a pre-release version of Windows 11 publicly—“the first version of a new era of Windows,” as Microsoft puts it—and using the feedback from early users to improve the product over the several months that follow. This is the way that simpler web-based products are launched and updated, but when you apply this model to something as complex as Windows, you wind up with something terrible like Windows as a Service. Which Woodman obliquely refers to as “the tremendous learnings from Windows 10.”
Anyway, here we go. The next year is going to be quite interesting for the Windows community no matter how you view this schedule.