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From: Don Green9/1/2023 10:00:50 AM
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Everything you need to know about Windows 12 including features, pricing, and release date

(Image credit: Getty Images)
Everyone knows the pain and anxiety of an operating system (OS) upgrade. After clicking the fateful dialogue box, your entire digital life is briefly thrown into limbo. If something goes wrong mid-upgrade, you’re in for a painful time. And even if it’s successful, you can never be 100% certain that every app, driver, and plugin will work on the new system.

So, it’s perhaps understandable if you’re still rocking Windows 10 on your computer – despite Microsoft’s nagging to upgrade to Windows 11.

And that’s why we have good news and bad. The good news is Microsoft will stop nagging you about Windows 11 in the not-too-distant future. The bad news is that’s because Windows 12 looks set to arrive next year at the very soonest.

The first signs of Microsoft’s plans for what’s next are starting to emerge – with a new version of Windows expected as early as next year. What might we expect in the next version of Windows?

Will Windows 12 be more than a lick of paint? Microsoft will obviously need to set Windows 12 apart from its predecessors in a visual sense, and we’re already getting hints of what it might look like.

One screenshot that appears to have been inadvertently shared at a Windows Ignite developer conference showed the taskbar at the bottom of the screen floating, instead of remaining anchored to the bottom of the display. Floating at the top of the screen, Windows 12 displayed the time, weather, connection status, battery life, and search box – suggesting a more phone or tablet-like interface.

The more significant changes will probably take place under the hood in response to the Cambrian explosion of artificial intelligence (AI) powered apps that have emerged over the past few months.

“I suspect Microsoft will go hard on ‘AI’ features as part of the next major version of Windows,” says Zac Bowden, senior editor at our sister outlet, Windows Central – who is one of the best-connected people on the Windows beat.

Bowden speculates it could be AI predicting what apps or shortcuts you may need next, based on what you’re currently looking at on screen, such as Windows spotting you’re emailing someone and mentioning you need to send wedding invitations and having Windows suggest the Microsoft Designer app in the Start Menu.

“You might also see smart enhancements to existing features like Snap Assist, remembering which apps you frequently snap together, for example,” says Bowden.

How will Windows 12 be structured?Perhaps the biggest change we can expect from future Windows is a significant change to how the OS is structured. Instead of being packaged as a one-size-fits-all system, an internal Microsoft project called “CorePC” is working on breaking Windows into its constituent parts so it can work on a more modular basis across different form factors – in a revived attempt at doing what the abandoned Windows 10X failed to do so.

It means, for example, we could see future versions of Windows running on tablets or foldables running ARM processors that are capable of running many ‘full-sized’ Windows apps, without the need to build in support for ‘legacy’ Windows apps that date back to stone-aged versions of the operating system.

The other major innovation, as reported by Bowden, is the CorePC versions of Windows will also be “state separated”, meaning apps will work a little more like iPad apps, which are restricted to only certain parts of the system – enhancing security and privacy.

Will Windows 12 be more flexible?Potentially making Windows more flexible is arguably something of a row-back from the intentions of CEO Satya Nadella when he first took over from Steve Ballmer in 2014.

In his first few years, he reorganized the company to promote the company’s booming Azure business, and abandoning the Ballmer-era strategy of having ‘Windows’ on every device – with the release of Office on iPad as the totemic example of this shift in mindset.

It was a strategic shift characterized by the influential technology analyst Ben Thompson in 2018 as “The End of Windows”. Could the renewed push towards the modular CorePC concept signal that getting Windows everywhere again is back on the agenda?

“Windows is never going to go away,” says Bowden. “It's certainly a legacy product but Windows' legacy is what makes it a viable product for so many people. Enterprises will never drop Windows, and gamers will never drop Windows.”

That’s why Microsoft still envisages a world where it remains competitive with iPadOS and Android on mainstream devices. “The PC industry is huge, and there's no alternative for Dell, HP, Lenovo, et cetera, to adopt,” says Bowden. “Chrome OS isn't good enough to replace Windows, and macOS isn't licensable. Current Windows leadership is trying to reposition Windows as a flagship OS platform for the masses, and I suspect that will continue with Windows 12.”

When will Microsoft release Windows 12? Although Windows 12 is in development, Microsoft hasn’t officially indicated when its next flagship OS will be ready for businesses to use.

Microsoft intends to ship major versions of Windows every three years, according to Windows Central, meaning, if true, Windows 12 will see the light of day at some point in 2024.

This would track with the release cycle of previous versions of Windows – with the expectation of Windows 11, which was released six years after Windows 10, rather than the three years between Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10.

As with all versions of Windows – and all major feature updates to Windows – those on the Windows Insider program will have the chance to test Windows 12 in various phases before general release. This will likely go on for months before general rollout.

How much will Windows 12 cost?Much like Windows 11, there’s every chance Microsoft will offer Windows 12 as a free optional update once it’s ready to be shipped. Windows 10 users may also be offered the free upgrade, alongside Windows 11 users.

Microsoft will, however, likely charge a premium for customers who wish to buy the OS, rather than upgrading an existing installation. Windows 11 Home costs $139/£119.99 and Windows 11 Pro costs $199.99/£219.99, meaning Windows 12 will likely be priced at the same price – or around that price point – once it’s ready to be released.
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