First major Windows 11 update lands next month with Android apps in tow

Plus a big welcome back to Media Player.

Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer for Windows and devices, has revealed that Windows 11’s first significant service pack will be made available in February 2022.

The update will include a wider rollout of support for Android apps, which Microsoft has been testing in smaller numbers for a matter of months. Windows users will be able to install selected apps from Amazon’s Android-based app store, though Panay’s description of a “public preview” suggests there are still various kinks to be ironed out.

Other improvements relate to the Windows 11 taskbar, which will be upgraded to include “call mute and unmute, easier window sharing,” and a return of the weather widget as seen in recent preview channels.

Microsoft will also continue its work on revamping legacy apps for a new generation. The update will include a redesign of Notepad, as well as a new-look Media Player that will be positioned as a long-term replacement to the ill-fated Groove Music. Though not listed for inclusion in the February update, the Windows Mail and Calendar apps are also set to be superseded in 2022 with an Outlook app codenamed Project Monarch.

These are still early days for Windows 11, yet Panay’s wide-ranging blog post includes a number of fascinating stats detailing how usage habits have shifted during the pandemic. According to Microsoft, Windows has seen “a 6x increase in people using communication and collaboration apps like Cisco WebEx, Slack, Microsoft Teams and Zoom.”

“Since the start of the pandemic 70% more people streamed content across Hulu, Netflix and YouTube on Windows and monthly gaming minutes grew over 35%.”

No surprise given that PC shipments have been at their highest level since 2012. Earlier this week, Microsoft announced record quarterly revenue of $51.8 billion.