Windows 11: No Trusted Platform Module? Many AMD and Intel processors can run Microsoft's new OS without a dedicated TPM 2.0 chip

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Notebookcheck.net 29 June, 2021 - 09:42am 20 views

Can I get Windows 11?

Windows 11 will be free to upgrade on a Windows 10 PC or laptop. This means that you need to have a genuine Windows 10 copy on your machine to be able to download Windows 11 for free. The Windows 11 preview build that is now available is also free to download. India TodayWindows 11 now available: Will your PC support it, how to download and install it, and other questions answered

When will Windows 11 roll out?

Windows 11 is due out later in 2021 and will be delivered over several months. The rollout of the upgrade to Windows 10 devices already in use today will begin in 2022 through the first half of that year. CRNMicrosoft: Windows 10 Update To Windows 11 Not Until Next Year

Is Windows 11 available now?

Microsoft today released the first preview build of Windows 11 to those in the Dev Channel of the company's Windows Insider program. TechCrunchThe first preview of Windows 11 is now available

Does Windows 11 require TPM?

Microsoft has updated the webpage for Windows 11 requirements, saying that PCs will be required to have a TPM 2.0 chip to install the new operating system. www.computing.co.ukMicrosoft says TPM 2.0 is mandatory for installing Windows 11

A cleaner Office experience and Arm improvements

Microsoft also announced a redesign of Office, which you can see above and below. While it uses a similar design to Windows 11, it’ll be available whether you're running the Windows 11 Preview or Windows 10. In addition to the new design, Office will also adapt to your Windows light / dark mode, so you should be able to avoid the experience of opening a document and having it blast light into your eyes at night.

It is, however, perhaps a little awkward that it took so long for a 64-bit Arm version of Office to come to Windows — M1 Macs got a native version late last year. There are also a few features that Microsoft mentions haven't come to the Arm version of Office yet, though that’s to be expected given that it’s currently in beta.

In addition to being in the Office Insider program, those who want to test out 64-bit Office on their Arm Windows machine will also have to be running the Windows 11 Insider Preview. They’ll also have to uninstall any 32-bit versions of Office they may have installed before reinstalling Office and updating to the beta version. If you’re running the Office beta on either Windows 10 or 11, you should be able to turn the redesign on from the Coming Soon pane in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote.

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The 3 words that could spell trouble for Android apps on Windows 11

Computerworld 29 June, 2021 - 09:44pm

Not your average Android news — a diverse mix of advice, insight, and analysis with veteran Android journalist JR Raphael.

Holy hell freezing over, Batman! Worlds are colliding and wild things are happening here in the land o' Googley tech, but before you get your knickers in a knot with excitement, there's a quick reality check we need to consider.

Let me back up a second, for anyone who isn't magically inside my brain and aware of what I'm thinking. Microsoft caught us all by surprise last week when it revealed that the upcoming Windows 11 operating system would support — drumroll, please — Android apps. Yes, Android apps on Windows. Who woulda thunk?

All right, so technically, we'd heard about this possibility before — way back in December of 2020 (which I'm pretty sure was at least 140 years ago). But still, it was a mere hypothetical at that point. And despite all the drippy leaks puddling up around the new Windows announcement, no one seemed to sense that this platform-defying, mind-blowing move might actually happen right now.

But oh, it be happenin', all right. When Windows 11 ships later this year, its new and improved Microsoft Store will feature a section of Android apps — sittin' pretty and waiting to be installed, right alongside the regular Word, Excel, and even Minecraft EXE files.

Now, what you might notice in that image leads us to the big honkin' asterisk with all of this: The Android apps on Windows 11 aren't coming from Google, exactly — not from the Play Store app market you're accustomed to interacting with on your actual Android device. Instead, they'll rely upon Amazon's Appstore, a.k.a. The Place You Go for Android Apps Only If You Have Absolutely No Other Option Available™ (the unofficial tagline of the Amazon storefront).

Amazon's Appstore presents plenty of practical problems — chief among them the fact that its virtual shelves are relatively barren compared to the actual Play Store, particularly when it comes to popular productivity tools. You won't find any Google-made apps there, of course, but beyond that, you also won't find big-name business appliances like Slack, Trello, or Asana. You won't find password management services like LastPass, 1Password, and Bitwarden. You certainly won't find most of the efficiency-boosting power tools we talk about so often in these quarters — not even the relatively basic and mainstream ones like IFTTT and Hue.

Heck, even Microsoft's own apps are relatively scarce in the Amazon app market. Core titles such as Outlook, OneNote, and the all-in-one Office combo are present, but other offerings — including the standalone Word, Excel, and PowerPoint programs as well as Microsoft Authenticator, Microsoft To-Do, and Microsoft SharePoint — are nowhere to be found.

Worse yet, the now-Amazon-owned Eero system for enhanced internet access (hello, home office!) isn't even available in the Amazon Appstore setup. Bank of America? Nope. American Express? Not present. Chase Mobile? Missing in action. Bueller? Bueller? The list goes on and on.

And across the board, the apps that are present in the Amazon Appstore are often as good as abandoned. Lots of titles are numerous versions behind their up-to-date Play Store counterparts, and plenty of programs you encounter in the Amazon environment clearly haven't been touched in years.

All of that gets at the underlying issue with this arrangement — and brings us to the three words that may doom this entire Android-apps-on-Windows enterprise: Google Play Services. The Amazon Appstore, y'see, isn't an apples-to-apples equivalent of the Google Play Store. It's lacking key parts of the Android experience that are available exclusively on devices running Google's Android setup. And chief among those pieces is a hefty little helper called Google Play Services.

Google Play Services isn't exactly a household name — at least, not among the non-developers and non-total-nerds among us. But as a proud total nerd, let me fill you in on what this practically invisible layer of Android does, in as simple and human-sounding terms as possible.

So here it is: Google Play Services performs a bunch of important behind-the-scenes magic that lets apps work the way they need to work. It allows apps to interact with your location, for instance, as well as optimize their use of on-device resources, handle in-app purchases, empower you to lean on the Google Cast system to send content to TVs and other screens, and be able to receive automatic updates for fast fixes and improvements.

Most critical of all, though, Google Play Services allows an app to send you push notifications — y'know, the alerts about important events (emails, messages, reminders, and so on) that are a vital part of so many productivity apps' purposes.

And because Google Play Services is such an integral piece of the standard Android puzzle, app developers can't simply take the same apps they publish on the Play Store and plop 'em down into the Amazon storefront. They'll have to either find alternative ways to offer similar functions with different protocols (some of which Amazon has created and provides as part of its setup) or reduce their app's functionality in order to allow it to operate in that Play-Services-free environment.

And if they don't do one of those two things, what would happen? It's simple, Shirley: Their app would break. It wouldn't work properly in the Play-Services-lacking Windows arrangement. Certain functions would either fail to operate entirely or would give you funky errors when they're activated. No bueno.

And that, m'dear, brings us back to the root of this discussion and why those three words — Google Play Services — are such a huge problem for Microsoft's Android-apps-on-Windows ambitions. The absence of Google Play Services means that any apps brought into Windows are effectively operating on a completely different platform, despite the fact that they're technically still Android apps. And that, in turn, means the developers behind 'em have to take on the task of updating, testing, and supporting their apps to make sure they run smoothly in that setting.

Make no mistake about it: That's no small feat. And it's almost certainly why Amazon's Appstore, despite being a full decade old now and being the single default storefront on Amazon's very popular Kindle and Fire devices, is a bleak wasteland of missing titles and short-lived attempts at cross-platform compatibility.

The logic here is really quite simple: Embracing a whole other platform is a major investment for any developer, and unless it measurably pays back in terms of added adoption and income, it's a difficult task to justify. And that's to say nothing of the dumbed-down, potentially inferior user experience the developer may have to settle on for its customers as part of that Play-Services-lacking arrangement.

As independent Android developer Bardi Golriz — the guy behind the acclaimed Android titles Appy Weather and Ruff Notesput it on Twitter: "[It] would be a no-brainer if it just worked and didn’t involve maintaining another platform version. There’s a reason I've not published any app to the Amazon Appstore."

The million-dollar question, as Golriz went on to point out, is the value being offered to developers in exchange for their added efforts. And that value is only present if people are actually using the storefront and making purchases through it — something he hasn't typically experienced with his attempts at publishing to the Microsoft Store in general.

For an even more real-world-level view of what life can be like using Android apps without Google Play Services in place, we can look at Huawei's recent attempts to ship Android phones without any form of Google elements involved. Most reviewers reached similar conclusions — like this one, from The Verge:

Not every app will work properly even if you’re able to install it. ... [and] it’s not just the apps themselves, but often the cloud services that power them. For example, Uber uses [Google services] to determine your location and for its mapping data. Some other apps, like The Guardian, work more or less normally but pop up an error message on boot saying Google Play Services are required.

Heck, even former Windows president Steven Sinofsky seems cynical.

"It seems fairly optimistic to think Android apps will work well [within Windows]," Sinofsky wrote on Twitter over the weekend. "Amazon store. Intel runtime. Android tablets in general. Developer incentive already isn’t enough/too tough w/100M+ diverse tablets. Adding another maybe 100M/yr of diverse Windows devices doesn’t make it easier."

All in all, Android apps on Windows represent a dramatically different situation than Android apps on Chrome OS — where (a) the programs operate with full Google Play Store and Play Services support, and (b) the apps play the important role of gap-filling limitation-eliminators within the Chromebook environment. The very value of their presence on Windows is far more limited, even if they were to work properly.

But once you take out the Google-made titles and add in all the limitations of the Amazon Appstore arrangement, Microsoft's facing a major uphill battle to get this effort to amount to anything beyond a mere novelty. (And yes, it'll technically be possible for folks to bypass the Amazon Appstore entirely and sideload Android apps on their own within Windows — and thus, in theory, to eventually even bring Google elements unofficially into the environment. But, well, that's violating usage rights, venturing into extremely technical and likely quite rocky enthusiast-level waters, and anything but a common use-case, especially when it comes to business purposes.)

There is, of course, the best-case-scenario outcome with this — wherein developers flock to the Amazon Appstore, invest the time in working around its limitations, and finally start taking it seriously as a result of the new opportunity this Windows integration presents. And who knows? Maybe that'll happen. It'd sure be a huge positive for the Android ecosystem as a whole, if so.

With those three consequential words in the equation, though, it's tough to remain anything but skeptical over what this move will actually represent — even if the notion of being able to run Windows apps on Chrome OS and Android apps on Windows is the most delightfully trippy, line-blurring twist a tech-lovin' geek could possibly ponder.

Contributing Editor JR Raphael serves up tasty morsels about the human side of technology. Hungry for more? Join him on Twitter or sign up for his weekly newsletter to get fresh tips and insight in your inbox every Friday.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Microsoft Office is getting a major redesign

CNN 29 June, 2021 - 09:34pm

Updated 10:40 AM ET, Tue June 29, 2021

OK Microsoft, you win: I’m buying a Windows 11 PC | ZDNet

ZDNet 29 June, 2021 - 10:39am

This has been a rather, shall we say, exciting week. First, Microsoft rolled out Windows 11 to great fanfare, emphasizing the new, flashy user interface. There was just one problem: If you didn't have a system with the latest Intel Generation 8 or above processors, you couldn't have it -- you'd be stuck on Windows 10.

Windows 11 is an upcoming release of Microsoft's flagship operating system and the successor to Windows 10.

Our resident Windows expert, Ed Bott, has been diligent in his coverage of watching Microsoft walk itself back from compatibility commitments in its pre-release documentation to get down to the bottom of exactly which systems would be orphaned by and which ones would move forward to Windows 11. 

That we did not have a definitive answer from Microsoft from the get-go has added a great deal of frustration from Microsoft's traditional loyalists. I have also not been pleased with this, having discovered that my own PC systems, which I purchased in 2016, will not make the cut.

Fortunately, we now have a definitive answer: The reason why many systems may not make the cut has much to do with Intel (and AMD processor) features in the latest generation of chips related to hardware-based virtualization.

Virtualization? But wait, isn't that something we are only really concerned with regarding servers that live in datacenters? Traditionally, yes. But there are other uses for virtualization besides increasing workload density.

Microsoft Defender Application Guard (MDAG) running on Windows 11 on a 6th Generation Intel i7-6700 system. This requires hardware virtualization technology, which is a minimum requirement for running Windows 11.

In 2017, I wrote an article entitled How containers will transform Windows 10 in the next three years; I discussed the various virtualization and containerization technologies Microsoft worked on in their Azure Cloud, Windows Server OS, and desktop Windows.

Now, with this required hardware-enforced containerization and virtualization tech, Windows 11 will isolate applications and processes much more easily. It will be much more difficult for malware in an errantly running application to access resources it isn't supposed to. It will only access the resources in that specific application task that it infects, such as a particular browser tab. 

It won't have a free run of the OS, and if the infected task is detected based on its known malware signature, it's nuked in orbit. 

Additionally, while not virtualization related, the requirement for Trusted Platform Module 2.0 provides additional features that prevent compromises at the boot level and at the firmware level for an extra level of security that legacy systems without them do not have.

The Windows 11 Device Security App. While Gen6 systems are able to run MDAG, it does not have all the features needed to enable VBS, which will be a requirement for new systems when Windows 11 is released. It has not yet been determined if Gen6 systems testing Windows 11 now will continue to function in October.

From a security perspective for both end-users and enterprises, that is huge. And it is something you absolutely want to upgrade to in an age where malware threats are constant, and the need to be vigilant against these threats is never-ending.

So yes, this is a significant upgrade. It's valuable, and if you're a Windows user --  consumer or enterprise -- you want this. If you don't have hardware that supports it, it's worth getting a new system.

The problem is that Microsoft buried the lead and employed bait-and-switch tactics to induce us to upgrade, rather than simply being straight with us from the beginning. What Microsoft should have said is: "Look, we can't implement these important architectural changes in the OS to protect you from the bad guys unless your hardware supports this."

Instead, we got: "Open your mouth, the airplane is landing! Microsoft wants you to eat the improved hardware-enforced security feature because it's good for you! Woooo! Flashy Windows 11 user interface!"

By the way, if you already have these features built into your Intel and AMD chips, then guess what? Windows 10 already has this enabled, by default, assuming you are at current patch levels. You're already protected. But Windows 11 will be the first Microsoft OS to require these features to turn on Virtualization Based Security (VBS) and Microsoft Defender Application Guard (MDAG). So future generations of systems will not be vulnerable to the same malware and exploits of previous generations.

It should be noted that Intel Gen6 systems, which did not make the official cut for Windows 11 support, can not only install the Windows 11 prerelease from the Windows Insider developer channel now, but they can also run MDAG, as shown in the screenshots above. 

However, they do not have sufficient hardware virtualization technology to run what is referred to as the "Standard Hardware Security" that certified Windows 11 PCs require to make the cut. Gen7 systems do (Which Microsoft is now exploring the possibility of supporting and some older generation AMD systems), but Gen8 does it better. This includes the Core Isolation, Security Processor, and Secure Boot features within the Device Security menu. 

Core Isolation requires a hypervisor, whereas MDAG appears to use host-based virtualization (which has less stringent hardware requirements), which could be the difference.

So it's unknown at this point if Gen6 systems like my 2016-era Dell XPS 8900 (Intel Skylake) running on the prerelease today will still be working on the gold release of Windows 11 in October. It would be nice if they did. I'm not counting on it.

It's ironic that the hardware-based virtualization technology I have been pleading with Microsoft to implement for years is the very thing that is likely to leave my PC systems behind with this upgrade.

Am I annoyed by this? Yes. Can I accept this now? Also, yes. But the best approach would have been coming clean with its userbase from the very beginning, making security a primary emphasis of the product launch, and not baiting and switching with a pretty user interface.   

To test the new OS and migrate some of my Windows workloads over to a more secure system, I am buying a new PC. Which PC? An AMD Ryzen 7 3750H-based system from Amazon. (Ed triple-checked it!) Sorry, Intel. I wasn't too happy with my last Skylake experience.

What is more important to you, the enhanced security enforced by default or the new user interface in Windows 11? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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Windows Insider testers in the Dev Channel can download Windows 11 build 22000.51 and a first preview of the new Microsoft app store today.

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