Windows 11: more tabs, more cloud and intelligence in the eye

Microsoft held a conference yesterday to unveil new features to come in Windows 11 within a context of “hybrid work”. Some of these functions are part of a general trend, to the point that we have already seen them implemented at Apple with the latest generations of Mac and iPad M1.

The same applies to improvements for videoconferencing. The Automatic framing function (Center stage at the neighbour’s) tries to put the subject back in the center of the image when it moves or moves in front of its webcam. Voice Clarity and Voice Focus (Voice Isolation at Apple) work on the voice of the person and on the elimination of ambient noise to improve the sound quality of the exchanges.

The Background blur option blurs the background while Eye contact is more original. With a small dose of artificial intelligence, Windows will make the person appear to be looking at you when in reality they are directing their gaze towards their notes or another place on their screen. It will be necessary to check on part the naturalness of the result.

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However, this function is not promised to everyone. As at Apple, Microsoft exploits the capabilities of ARM-based processors and their “neural processing unit”, in this case the one provided by Qualcomm and its Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 platform. It currently equips Lenovo and its ThinkPad X13s.

Other options for videoconferencing are planned in the future, all based on the possibilities offered by ARM chips. And by integrating these capabilities into Windows rather than its applications – Teams already had some of them – any third-party software will be able to use them.

In the same vein, Windows will offer a timer in its concentration assistant to keep notifications at bay for a set duration as well as a Do Not Disturb mode. Functions that we know well with the Concentration periods that appeared with the latest iOS and macOS.

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A timer for a period of concentration

Other important moment announcements, the one relating to Windows 365 Cloud PC. Last year, Microsoft made its operating system (Windows 10 then, Windows 11 now) accessible from a simple web browser on different platforms (including Apple’s).

Windows 365: Microsoft's streaming PC from €18.20 excl. VAT per month

Windows 365: Microsoft’s streaming PC from €18.20 excl. VAT per month

Three new modes of use of Windows 365 will be integrated into Windows 11. With Windows 365 Boot, the user will be able to start a session directly on his Windows instance in the cloud and declare this Cloud PC as his mode of use by fault on a machine. This implies having a permanent network connection but allows a single PC to be used by different people, each with their Windows 365 account.

The second option will be Windows 365 Switch, with which you will switch, from the taskbar or in the Start menu, between your local Windows 11 and that on your Cloud PC.

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Finally, the publisher is working on Windows 365 Offline. When the network connection is lost, everything you have done in your Windows 365 instance will be synchronized once the connection is restored. You can also anticipate these hazards by choosing what you want to keep in cache on your PC.

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These developments are primarily of interest to enterprise customers, but Microsoft also had a few treats for everyone. The Windows 11 Start menu regains its ability to contain app folders that can be pinned as favorites as needed.

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Familiar to users of the macOS Finder, the principle of tabs appears in Windows 11 File Explorer for circulation between several folders within the same window. An Explorer in which we will pin important files and documents for quick access. Suggestions of files, folders or contacts relevant to the present moment will also be permanently displayed in the Explorer.

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To save time again, the different possibilities for automatically arranging several windows on the screen will be displayed in a palette. It will suffice to drag a window to the top of the screen to reveal these possibilities and choose the most interesting.

Also well seen, the automatic subtitling function of any audio content broadcast by Windows 11, intended for the hearing impaired. But not only since it can be practical when you can’t listen to content, either because there are people around or because you don’t have your headphones.

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Automatic closed captioning managed at the system level

These features — and others like new gestures on tablets — are in beta testing in a new build of Windows 11, or they will eventually be. Microsoft has not given a timetable for their final release.

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Windows 11: more tabs, more cloud and intelligence in the eye

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