The shift to working from home during the pandemic fueled a resurgence in demand for personal computers. Now, Microsoft Corp. is hoping a partial return to the office will boost sales of its latest Windows operating system.
With some employees still home, some returning to offices, and others splitting time between the two of them, Microsoft is designing Windows 11 as the operating system for hybrid businesses. On Tuesday, the company unveiled a host of new features for the software, which first came out in October, aimed at improving network security for a mobile workforce and making it easier to move work between physical computers. and the cloud.
The idea is “to help companies be more agile and flexible for their employees and for themselves,” chief product officer Panos Panay said in an interview. They also need to be more resilient in dealing with security threats, he said.
Part of the Windows 11 argument is to move customers to a “PC in the cloud” model, where software is delivered to individual computers but continues to be stored, updated and managed in the cloud. Users can access the same programs from the office or from home, blurring the line between cloud computing and traditional PCs.
The change will require Microsoft and its hardware partners to create devices for a work-from-anywhere lifestyle, said Panay, who also oversees the Surface line of computers and tablets. He declined to comment on specific plans for Microsoft hardware.
“We’re still figuring out what people really need from a hybrid stance, what flexibility means for a customer, all the way down to silicon,” he said. Whether it’s for front-line workers or white-collar workers, there will be strong demand for new types of products, Panay said.
Part of Tuesday’s updates include better protection against phishing attacks. A system called Defender SmartScreen finds and alerts users when they enter their Microsoft login information on a hacked website or malware.
Meanwhile, Smart App Control prevents untrusted apps from running. And a personal data encryption feature will protect information stored on a device when the user is not logged in. That makes it more difficult to seize sensitive information from a lost or stolen device.
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Features aimed at blending the cloud and the physical world include Windows 365 Boot, which allows customers to log in directly to a PC in the cloud. There is also a switch feature that allows users to easily switch from a physical desktop to what they have stored in the cloud. An offline option allows customers to work on their cloud PC when they are offline.
The approach has begun to gain traction. Accenture Plc said it has put Windows 11 on 30,000 devices so far and plans to have it on 300,000 by July. The rest of the almost 700,000 workers of the consultancy will have the new operating system by the end of the year.
Windows 11 is also adding some accessibility features, including live subtitles that help people who are deaf or learning a new language, according to a presentation by Microsoft executive Wangui McKelvey. A new speech clarity feature for meetings eliminates echo and background noise, he said.