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Windows 11 24H2 or Windows 12? Here’s what’s coming soon

A Windows 11 device sits on a table.
Microsoft

Windows 11 is more than a few years old and it is getting feature drops called “moments” every so often, as well as yearly updates. But what about the whole new Windows release that will come after Windows 11?

Earlier leaks from Intel and Qualcomm made mention of Windows 12, leading some to believe that Windows 12 might be in development at Microsoft and could come in 2024.

Whether or not it’s called Windows 12 or Windows 11 24H2, a big update is coming. Here’s what we know so far.

Windows 12 naming and release date

Windows 11 set up on a computer.
Microsoft / Microsoft

Microsoft hasn’t announced Windows 12’s release date, or that it is working on the OS at all. The most we have to go on is a report from Zac Bowden at Windows Central, who says that Microsoft isn’t likely to release Windows 12 this year. Instead, Microsoft will retain Windows 11 naming and keep updating it with new features. Windows 12 is believed to be code-named “Hudson Valley.”

Some Windows 12 features have been in testing and are expected to come to Windows 11 this year with Windows 11 24H2, which will be released later this fall. So, in a way, think of Windows 11 24H2 features as what could have been coming in Windows 12.

It could be a stretch to say this, but if Microsoft wants to announce Windows 12, it could do so during its Build developer conference. The company confirmed that it’s hosting an event on May 21 for the media only, and it should reveal more about the company’s “AI vision across hardware and software.”

The departure of Windows Chief Panos Panay from Microsoft seems to have shaken up the Windows 12 idea. The company has shifted direction with Windows 12 and wants to focus on Windows 11. After all, Windows 10 still reigns supreme with 1.4 billion monthly active devices, and Windows 11 is well behind that at only 400 million devices.

Compatibility

The blue edition of the Surface Pro 9.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Again, we don’t expect Windows 12 to come this year. Instead, we’re going to see Windows 11 24H2, but we do think everything that applied to a Windows 11 update could also apply to Windows 12 whenever Microsoft wants to release it.

Windows 11 caught a lot of flak for requiring a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) to be installed on your PC, along with strict CPU requirements. This was, according to Microsoft, an effort to raise the bar for security across the Windows ecosystem by pairing modern security with a modern OS.

It stung at the time, but Microsoft has made big strides since the announcement of Windows 11 (PC gamers, who mainly felt the brunt of the TPM issue, have started flocking to Windows 11). For Windows 12, we expect Microsoft to stick with the same security system it established in Windows 11 so upgrading isn’t as tough, especially on custom-built PCs.

If Microsoft wants to raise the requirements again, at the very least, we hope there are fewer restrictions on installing Windows 12. An annoying watermark has continued to surface on Windows 11 PCs that aren’t properly configured for the OS, even when they’re fully supported. Hopefully, Microsoft can handle the next version with a bit more grace. Even today, custom PCs that are supported by Windows 11 will say they aren’t due to configuration issues.

Will it be a free upgrade?

Windows 10 updating to Windows 11 version 22h2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This is probably a given, but whenever it launches, Windows 12 should be a free upgrade for Windows 11 users. This is just how Windows 11 gets free yearly upgrades to a new version, which will be the 24H2 update this year.

Microsoft still sells new licenses for Windows 11, but anyone using a licensed version of Windows 10 can upgrade for free. Hopefully, Microsoft will keep that same system in place for Windows 12.

A big reason why I’d like to see this has to do with the increasing amount of data Microsoft gathers about Windows users. Since Windows 8.1, Microsoft has offered subsequent versions of the OS for free, and mostly because the OS has turned into a service that Microsoft is able to monetize thought data collection and advertising. I don’t suspect that will change with Windows 12.

Although some privacy-focused folks have justified issues with Microsoft’s data collection, those efforts mean that Windows updates remain free for license holders, rather than being $100 or so upgrades, as was the case in previous Windows versions.

Features

Copilot on a laptop on a desk.
Microsoft

AI is the next big thing at Microsoft, as well as its partners. The new wave of Surface PCs is expected to ship with Intel Core Ultra and Snapdragon X Elite chips that have a Neural Processing Unit (NPU). We expect that Windows 12 could go all-in on AI and how these devices can use the NPU to their advantage for productivity tasks. Again, we expect some of this will also be seen in the Windows 11 24H2 update.

We expect the OS to come with an advanced version of Copilot. Rumors have it that Copilot in Windows 11 24H2 will be better able to understand your workflows thanks to an “AI Explorer” feature. Similar to the discontinued Timeline feature in Windows 10, AI Explorer can contextualize what’s happening on your screen and help you jump into your workflow with searchable moments. This is on top of gaming features we know are coming to Windows 11, like “Super Resolution,” which can use AI to upscale the graphics quality in games.

Microsoft’s multi-billion investment in OpenAI already revolutionized every part of the company, from Bing Chat to AI features throughout Skype. In Windows 12, it’s expected that AI will affect every part of the OS even more.

Design

Microsoft

Windows 11 brought a much-needed face-lift to Microsoft’s OS. Rounded corners, a centered taskbar, and updated icons across the board make Windows 11 feel like a much more modern OS. Windows 12 could take this further whenever Microsoft is ready to push it out.  The company shared a mock-up of what looks like a new version of Windows, with a floating and translucent taskbar. It’s unknown if this will come to Windows 12, but it sure does look nice.

But we still want to see deeper customization options. There are several tools that make Windows 11 look like Windows 10, and Microsoft could integrate those features into Windows 12 itself. Options for moving the taskbar to different sides of the screen, changing Start menu styles, and disabling system features like widgets would be appreciated.

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Arif Bacchus
Arif Bacchus is a native New Yorker and a fan of all things technology. Arif works as a freelance writer at Digital Trends…
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