To the casual observer, the story of the next version of Windows seems to be slowly turning into a 1990s-style sitcom: Will it come out in 2024? Will it be called Windows 12? Will it be full of AI gimmicks? Will Copilot finally get that date with Monica? Adding to the never-ending mystery of it all are reports that Windows 11 will receive a large update later this year and that this could be 'Windows 12' and not a whole new operating system.
Let's begin with a recent earnings call by Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon (via Tom's Hardware) who said that the company was aiming to launch its forthcoming Snapdragon X Elite processor around the same time as Microsoft releases its next version of Windows. Amon doesn't specifically say 'Windows 12' nor makes any reference to a major update, though.
But the wording is suspiciously similar to what Intel said in October last year, where the phrase 'Windows refresh' was used. I see this as being open to interpretation in one of two ways: A new piece of software that's based on Windows 11 but is launched with a new name, or a significant service pack/update that breathes new life into Microsoft's current OS.
What's fuelling the fire is the fact that someone has noted that Windows 11 will receive an update labelled 24H2 (as reported by ComputeBase) at around the same time as Qualcomm's chip hits the market, i.e. mid-year to Autumn. That in itself isn't newsworthy, as Windows 10 received large updates long after Windows 11 appeared.
It's the timing of the update that's made folks think that this could actually be Windows 12. It obviously wouldn't be called that and we'd still have Windows 11 for another year, at the very least. Not that it's especially old, as it was only launched in October 2021. Normally, Microsoft makes a huge fuss about new versions of Windows, with months of hype building up to the official launch.
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We've heard absolutely nothing of specific note from the software behemoth concerning the future of Windows and unless it springs something upon us this month, it's safe to say that Windows 12 (or whatever the next version is going to be called) won't be appearing mid-2024 or at the start of Autumn.
So what exactly is coming later this year? More importantly, what's coming that has all of the major PC hardware vendors in such a tizzy? Surely Qualcomm can't be pinning its hopes on a mere service pack to massively boost sales of its Snapdragon X Elite?
First of all, given the dominance of Windows 10 in the operating system market, it probably wouldn't make sense for Microsoft to degrade Windows 11 with another version so soon. And it could test the waters, so to speak, with regards to additional features or hardware support far better in the form of a major update, rather than a whole new product.
So for AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm, this is probably the best way for Microsoft to add support for the new hardware features without resorting to spending a huge fortune on a marketing campaign for a new version of Windows. It can just release the service pack and let others hype it up.
But whatever lies in store for us, I can guarantee you one thing: AI will be front and centre of it all. Oh, joy.