Microsoft is planning to launch a public preview of its Android apps for Windows 11 next month, alongside some taskbar improvements and redesigned Notepad and Media Player apps. Windows chief Panos Panay outlined the upcoming changes to Windows 11 in a blog post today, and they appear to be part of Windows 11’s first big update.
The taskbar improvements include a mute and unmute feature and likely the ability to show a clock on secondary monitors. Both were missing at the launch of Windows 11, but Microsoft is still working on improving the taskbar further to bring back missing functionality like drag and drop.
The upcoming Windows 11 next month will also include the weather widget returning to the taskbar, something Microsoft started testing last month. Microsoft is also redesigning its Notepad and Media Player apps, and both include dark modes and design tweaks that more closely match Windows 11.
The big new addition will be Android apps on Windows 11, though. Panay says this will be a “public preview,” indicating that the feature will still be in beta when it’s widely available next month. Microsoft first started testing Android apps on Windows 11 with testers in October, and the feature allows you to install a limited number of apps from Amazon’s Appstore. There are a variety of workarounds to get Google Play Store running on Windows 11, but Microsoft isn’t officially supporting this.
Panay also shared a variety of stats about how important Windows has become over the past couple of years. Windows 10 and Windows 11 now run on 1.4 billion devices each month, and the PC market has experienced strong growth throughout the pandemic.
“As we reflect on what’s driving this structural shift in PC demand and usage, we see three enduring trends: the rise in hybrid work and learning, shifts in entertainment habits and distribution models, and changing consumer habits for everyday tasks,” says Panay.
Microsoft says it has seen a 6x increase in people using apps like Cisco WebEx, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. Next month’s Windows 11 update will also make it easier to share your screen in Microsoft Teams and other video call apps. A new tab will appear when you hover over apps like Teams on the taskbar, and it lets you quickly share window content on a call.
“Since the start of the pandemic, 70 percent more people streamed content across Hulu, Netflix and YouTube on Windows and monthly gaming minutes grew over 35 percent,” reveals Panay. “As a team, we feel an immense amount of gratitude and pride delivering a product that has increasingly become a part of people’s daily lives, and we know we are not done.”
Update, January 26th 9:35AM ET: Article update with details on a new window sharing feature coming to Windows 11 next month.