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Looking ahead: What’s next for Windows 11 in 2023

2022 was a mostly uneventful year for Windows 11. It saw the launch of the Windows 11 2022 Update, which brought a handful of new features and enhancements designed to polish up the OS from its initial 2021 launch version. Now, as 2022 comes to a close, it’s time to look to the year ahead and share what I’m hearing from sources regarding update schedules and new features.

With Windows 11 version 22H2, Microsoft has kicked off a new engineering effort internally called “Moments” which aims to deliver ‘continuous innovation’ to Windows 11 users throughout the lifecycle of the product. Instead of waiting for the annual Windows feature update in the fall, Microsoft is now planning to ship new features every few months in a series of feature drops, the first of which already shipped in October and included tabs in File Explorer.

Windows 11 Moment 2

(Image credit: microsoft)

The next Windows 11 moment update is expected to ship in the February or March timeframe and will include more features and updates for Windows 11 users. Here’s the rundown of the top new features expected to ship in the Moment 2 update for Windows 11:

  • Tablet-mode Taskbar
  • System Tray updates
  • More search bar options
  • Energy recommendations in Settings
  • Search in Task Manager
  • Full-screen widgets panel
  • Studio Effects in Quick Settings
  • Voice Access enhancements

Some of these features are significant, especially those around the Taskbar and System Tray. Microsoft is not afraid of delivering notable changes and updates to the Windows UI via these Moments, and the second moment update for Windows 11 is going to be a big one for users running Windows 11 on tablets.

The new tablet-mode Taskbar brings over the minimized Taskbar interface that was first introduced on Windows 10X. When Windows detects a touchscreen and no keyboard or mouse, the Windows Taskbar will now minimize to give the user extra space for their running apps. Users can swipe up on the Taskbar to access pinned and running apps, with larger hitboxes to make using it with a finger easier.

There are also changes coming to the System Tray, specifically around the System Tray overflow menu, which has now been rewritten from the ground up with modern code. It’s more consistent with the rest of the Windows 11 interface, and the overflow button can even be turned off if you don’t use it.

Windows 11 Moment 3 and beyond

Microsoft is also planning a third Moment update for Windows 11 in the late spring/early summer, likely in the May or June timeframe. It’s too early to know exactly what Moment 3 will include, but I have heard that Microsoft is working on delivering preliminary improvements for foldable PCs, for both single-screen and dual-screen form factors.

I also expect to see more changes to the Windows Search UI, as well as updates to some in-box apps, and more. Microsoft is still planning to replace the Windows Mail & Calendar apps with the new Outlook web client, which I believe could begin happening in the 2023 timeframe once the new client gains the ability to integrate with third-party email services.

Another big focus for these Moment updates throughout 2023 will be the continuation of updating legacy interfaces with modern designs that are consistent with the rest of Windows 11. Many older interfaces from the Windows 8 and Windows 7 days, such as the USB Autoplay interface, recovery and device rename dialogs, Windows Firewall popups, and more are expected to finally be updated with new designs throughout 2023.

Windows 11 version 23H2

Even with moment updates now in full swing, Microsoft remains committed to shipping an annual feature update for Windows 11. This means there will be a Windows 11 version 23H2 in the fall, likely in the September or October timeframe, which will include new features and an updated support lifecycle.

However, unlike previous Windows 11 feature updates, I believe the 23H2 feature update won’t be a major platform release. It will be delivered just like a Moment update, and not like a full new release of Windows like the 22H2 feature update was. 

I’ve also heard that a Moment 4 update is planned for around the same time, but I’m not yet sure if Moment 4 is just the 23H2 release, or a separate update coming shortly after 23H2 launches, just like Moment 1 did with the 22H2 release.

TL:DR

So, here’s the rundown of update milestones you can expect to see ship for Windows 11 in 2023:

  • Windows 11 22H2 Moment 2: February/March
  • Windows 11 22H2 Moment 3: May/June
  • Windows 11 23H2 Moment 4: September/October

One thing is clear, this new continuous innovation schedule means users will receive new features and notable changes on a frequent basis, every few months throughout the year. This is a huge change in cadence compared to previous releases of Windows, which only really saw new features ship once or twice a year.

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