Windows 11 Announcement Raises System Compatibility Concerns

Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 11, is set for release as a free update in the fall. However, ongoing confusion about system compatibility has clouded the announcement, making it unlikely that many companies will be quick to implement the new OS.

In a blog post introducing Windows 11, chief product officer Panos Panay focused on the simplicity and clarity of the design, calling it “modern, fresh, clean and beautiful.” New Snap Layouts, Snap Groups and Desktops, Panay noted, help organize desktop space and make it easier to multitask.

The Start button now helps you view files you recently accessed regardless of where that access took place. As Panay put it, the system “utilizes the power of the cloud and Microsoft 365 to show you your recent files no matter what platform or device you were viewing them on earlier, even if it was on an Android or iOS device.”

Panay also stressed the way the new OS responds to the challenges of the pandemic, making it easier to connect with others online. Chat from Microsoft Teams is now integrated in the taskbar, enabling instant connections via text, chat, voice or video on any device, including Windows, Android, iOS, or even SMS messaging.

Android Apps and Developer Revenue

An improved Microsoft Store not only brings in a wide range of additional apps, but now adds the ability to run Android apps in Windows 11. Users can browse Android apps in the Microsoft Store, download them from the Amazon Appstore, and run them in the new OS using Intel Bridge technology.

Microsoft is also now allowing app developers either to use the Microsoft Commerce platform at an 85/15 revenue share, or to use their own commerce platform and keep all revenue, without giving Microsoft a cut. “We believe creating a more open ecosystem ultimately benefits our customers,” Panay wrote.

Borrowing both from mobile and from a similar feature in MacOS, Windows 11 Widgets provides a personalized feed that consolidates notifications about news, weather, and anything else the user selects. The feed, Panay noted, “slides across your screen like a sheet of glass so it doesn’t disrupt what you’re doing.”

For gamers, Windows 11 leverages DirectX 12 Ultimate, DirectStorage and Auto HDR for an improved experience. Still, Panay inadvertently brought up a broader issue for Windows 11 when he noted that the OS supports popular PC gaming accessories and peripherals, writing, “Nothing has changed in our commitment to hardware compatibility.”

That doesn’t appear to be true, unfortunately, of the OS itself.

System Requirements and TPM 2.0

While Panay noted that “most PCs you can buy today will be ready for Windows 11 – across a variety of form factors and price points,” the use of the word “most” is key. The system requirements are as follows:

  • Processor: 1 GHz or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-processor or SoC
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB or larger storage device
  • System firmware: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
  • Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver

In a blog post, the Windows Team said devices with Intel 8th generation processors, as well as AMD Zen 2 and Qualcomm 7 and 8 Series, should meet requirements. “As we release to Windows Insiders and partner with our OEMs, we will test to identify devices running on Intel 7th generation and AMD Zen 1 that may meet our principles,” the team added.

The TPM 2.0 requirement, however, caused significant confusion, since Microsoft’s PC Health Check app initially identified any PC not currently running TPM 2.0 as unable to be upgraded, without explaining why. The Windows Team said the Health Check app “was not fully prepared to share the level of detail or accuracy you expected from us.” Microsoft has now removed the app, and until it’s rereleased, the TPM 2.0 requirement has been removed for preview builds of Windows 11.

In the meantime, the system requirements above are the best way to check your device’s ability to run Windows 11, though an open-source tool, WhyNotWin11, can also evaluate compatibility. As the tool’s website cheekily observes, “Unlike Microsoft’s Health Check Tool, [WhyNotWin11] gives accurate information.”

As Reddit users have noted, it appears at this point that Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2, currently available on Microsoft’s website starting at $3,499, does not meet the company’s own requirements to run its new operating system. “I just bought a Surface Studio 2, unacceptable that this current model can’t be upgraded,” one user wrote.

All other Surface devices listed on Microsoft’s website include a highlighted note stating, “Free upgrade to Windows 11 when available,” but the company’s listing for the Surface Studio 2 doesn’t.

Further reading: Lenovo, Microsoft Stepping into Growing Desktop-as-a-Service Space

TPM: A Double-Edged Sword

While the TPM 2.0 requirement isn’t the limiting issue for the Surface Studio 2, it is for many other Windows systems. Alicia Townsend, technology evangelist at OneLogin, told eSecurity Planet that TPM can be a double-edged sword, particularly for corporations that may not have purchased new machines in the past few years.

“TPM provides support for quite a few Microsoft security features such as blocking brute-force dictionary attacks, providing power to virtual smart cards, and storing keys and the PINs for Windows Hello biometrics and Credential Guard,” Townsend said. “The problem is that not all machines support TPM 2.0.”

As a result, Townsend said, many organizations won’t be able to upgrade to Windows 11 until they purchase new hardware or find a way to sidestep the TPM 2.0 requirements. “Of course, if they choose to bypass the TPM 2.0 requirements, then they can’t take advantage of the security enhancements,” she noted.

While most Windows admins aren’t in a rush to implement newly released products or operating systems, Townsend said that’s likely to be particularly true for Windows 11. “A new hardware requirement like TPM 2.0 makes this upgrade especially problematic,” she said. “Not a lot of corporations are going to be quick to adopt.”

Jeff Goldman
Jeff Goldman
Jeff Goldman has been a technology journalist for more than 20 years and a contributor to TechnologyAdvice websites since 1999. He's covered security, networking, storage, mobile technologies and more during his time with TechnologyAdvice.

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