Windows 11 may be out in the wild now, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be offered it this month. In fact, it may well be next year before it lands on your PC or laptop. To answer the big question of exactly when you will be offered the Windows 11 upgrade, I spoke to the general manager of Windows, Aaron Woodman.
“You know, a lot of sleepless nights have gone into what’s going to happen early Monday, Tuesday,” he told me, speaking on the Friday before the big event. “[The] Windows 11 rollout, to give some shape to it, is I think one of the largest software distributions on Earth. We’ll simultaneously do that in 190 countries around the world.”
So that’s the scale of what Microsoft is attempting, with Woodman describing a “base of 1.3 billion people” who use Windows. Now to the key questions. I’ve put my questions in bold, Aaron’s answer below.
When you say 1.3 billion people, are all those Windows systems upgradeable to Windows 11?
No… Windows 10 customers will, if they meet minimum system requirements, see an upgrade offer as the machine becomes ready for a quality update. But we’ll continue to invest in Windows 10 customers including a new feature update coming later this year and in security, really through, you know, for many years to come.
We also see, obviously 20% to 25% of that base moved from older hardware to newer hardware and so over time more and more customers in that 1.3 billion will have a minimum system requirement device and experience Windows 11.
If their systems are upgradeable, when can people expect Windows 11 to be offered to them?
Let me provide some clarity in terms of how it works. Essentially, there’s no pre-determined timeline that we’re marching towards in terms of total machines, it’s entirely quality driven. What that means, though, is essentially the new machines that have not been touched by users that have been tested by OEMs [will move first].
(A small aside here: when Microsoft talks about OEMs, it means ‘original equipment manufacturers’ such as Acer, Dell and HP.)
Devices that have been purchased in that chassis and configuration recently will move second, meaning that if you bought that PC in May versus September, so you’ve had time to interact with it including adding software and content to the drive. That essentially allows us to continuously expand.
But essentially, in that expansion because of the variants of configurations, there’s always times where you discover things that actually depress some of the quality metrics that we have, and at that point you would block those and work the problem and move forward.
So what you’ll see is relatively quick for new devices, and then it’ll feel relatively slow at least in the initial few weeks and months as we start to expand, and then it will rapidly accelerate for customers. And so it’s not necessarily a smooth bell curve, it’s more like a rapid acceleration.
The last thing I would say is, you know, we want [the upgrade to Windows 11] to come across as a choice. We know that we’re moving a lot of components for customers, not every customer will want to take those changes in that timeline horizon. So our expectation is that by mid-2022 everyone is offered Windows 11 that meets minimum system requirements, but it might actually take a much longer time for people to make the decision relative to the movement.
So, when will you be offered the upgrade?
We’ll print more of this interview with Aaron Woodman in the issue of PC Pro that comes out in November, but for now let me interpret what he’s saying.
Wave 1: new PCs and laptops that have been pre-tested with Windows 11. (We review a few of these in the next issue of PC Pro.) Timescale: immediate.
Wave 2: PCs and laptops that were bought in the past few months, so they will all have up-to-date specs. The only question mark is over the software you’re running. Timescale: hopefully this month, but we shall see.
Wave 3: older PCs and laptops but ones that easily satisfy the minimum requirements for Windows 11. Timescale: hopefully this year, but again we shall see.
Wave 4: the rest of the PCs and laptops with a mix of hardware and software that’s tougher to guarantee will upgrade smoothly. Timescale: next year is our best guess. Sorry.
It’s also worth pointing out that, if you simply can’t wait to be offered the Windows 11 upgrade, it’s possible to download and install Windows 11 manually.