The Viener Prospective: Windows 11

By: Wayne Viener

Windows 11 goes live this week on Tuesday, October 5th. The new operating system makes its actual debut.

On background, my daily use PC is a Lenovo ThinkPad. It is good business machine that runs Windows 10 Pro, with an Intel i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a large SSD. This machine that is less than two years old is not capable of running Windows 11. I expect many (if not all) of you will have relatively new machines that cannot run the new Windows 11 operating system.

The question is, “Why?” Why would Microsoft release an operating system that excludes probably 85% of the business-class computers that are in the marketplace right now? It’s going to exclude many of the computers that people bought to become Windows 10 Pro compliant. PCs purchased just a year or two ago are not compliant? This puts many businesses in the same situation that now I find myself, with an expensive piece of hardware that is going to be made obsolete because it cannot run the newest Windows operating system.

Microsoft is trying desperately to improve the security of the primary business operating system, and additionally provide a better gaming experience for others who run Windows computers. That seems to be the main push of Windows 11. The method by which it’s being done is to leverage a processor included only on newer chipsets. And it’s been a struggle for Microsoft to explain why these features are entirely dependent on new chips and new hardware that many people don’t have.

Microsoft’s hardware requirements are generally looked at as a push to enable a more modern BIOS, which is a UEFI BIOS that supports features like Secure Boot and TPM 2.0 (Trusted Platform Module). And if you combine TPM 2.0 with some of the virtualization technologies that Microsoft uses, one can make a more secure computing experience. There is a security benefit that is evident to people who are on the inside of how computers work. Microsoft said a combination of device encryption, virtualization-based security, hypervisor-protected code integrity, and secure boot can knock down malware by over 50%. However, to run all those platforms in the background, you must have a very new chipset.

So, the question is: if nobody can use the platform in general, has security been markedly improved? I would say, at least for right now: no, it has not.

For people who have newer hardware, but not the eighth generation or newer processors, (2018 into 2019 for purchasing dates), you are out of luck. 

Returning for a moment to discussing my ThinkPad, I bought it in 2019 and it is not compatible. Just two years ago. If you did not buy your computer brand new in the last 18 months, Windows 11 will not run on your PC. 

We are talking about millions and millions of PCs that cannot use this platform.  From the perspective of an end user, I’m not overly thrilled that my relatively new, name brand, i7 notebook can’t load the new OS. From the perspective of someone who is paid to be a chief information security officer (CISO) for our client companies, having a new operating system that’s coming out that fits into approximately none of our customers is bad optics for Microsoft.

I don’t think we have any customers that have all new hardware. In the post-pandemic of time of flux, where there aren’t that many chips to be had and computer prices are up, here is a new operating system that requires almost all your customers to buy new PCs if you want everybody protected. You have to buy all new hardware for the organization, when we just assisted many of these customers in buying and deploying all new hardware for Windows 10 Pro.

It looks like a repeat of the Windows 8 release, where Microsoft pushed and pushed and still there was comparatively low adoption and even less love for the OS. It took Windows 10 until people were ready to come off Windows 7, and we still have customers who love Windows 7 even though it left extended support almost two years ago.

It will be a huge challenge for Microsoft to get solid adoption of Windows 11, especially for business users.

We will see what this next year brings, if Windows 11 makes huge profromance gains many will adapt it if not many will not feel the need to invest in tech made for the consumer market.