As New Zealand became the first major country to tick over to October 5, Microsoft officially made Windows 11 available to download worldwide.
The newest version of its software is being released as a free upgrade for Windows 10 PCs and laptops, although a device will need to meet Microsoft's minimum requirements to do so.
However, not everyone will have access to the new operating system immediately, Microsoft said.
There are around 1.3 billion devices with Windows 10 and the company will be using a "measured and phased process" to upgrading, with newer devices the first to receive the update.
"Then, as with previous rollouts, we will study device health data and other signals to determine the pace at which Windows 11 is offered via Windows Update," John Cable, vice president of program management at Windows servicing and delivery said.
"If you have a Windows 10 PC that's eligible for the upgrade, Windows Update will let you know via the Windows Update Settings page when it's available.
"We expect all eligible Windows 10 devices to be offered the upgrade to Windows 11 by mid-2022," he said.
How to upgrade to Windows 11
- Use the PC Health Check app to see if your current Windows 10 PC is eligible for the free upgrade
- Back up any important documents and photographs
- Go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update
- Check for updates
- If eligible, an option to download and install will be available
- Follow the on-screen prompts
If you want to bypass the Windows Update system, you can also use the Windows 11 download page to get it directly, providing your device qualifies.
Options include using the Windows 11 Installation Assistant or downloading the software to create your own DVD or bootable USB.
Windows 11 was announced in June, shortly after leaked versions appeared online and has been available for beta testing for three months.
One of the positive changes for New Zealand users is access to a new Aotearoa keyboard which allows macrons to more easily be added while writing in te reo Māori by using the tilde (~) key before a vowel.
This avoids having to copy and paste or use additional keyboards, something that's been welcomed by Vanessa Sorenson, managing director of Microsoft New Zealand.
"It's about encouraging more Kiwis to learn and engage with each other in the language every day," she said
"The Aotearoa keyboard will enable millions of Windows users around Aotearoa and the world to write more easily in te reo Māori, removing the barriers people currently face to expressing themselves in our indigenous language. That's huge."
However, one of the big pieces of new functionality isn't yet available, with no timescale yet when it will be rolled out. The newly-renamed Microsoft Store will allow users to download and run Android apps for the first time, but it's missing in the first public release.
The partnership with Amazon means Windows users will be able to access their favourite Android-based games and apps on the desktop, while opening up the opportunity for app developers to reach those who have a computer but no Android devices.
The move makes strategic sense after competitor Apple's introduction of its own M1 chip opens up the opportunity for iOS apps to work seamlessly on macOS devices due to their having the same infrastructure.
Other new features in Windows 11 include:
- A new start menu and centred taskbar
- Microsoft Teams built in instead of an additional download
- Snap Layouts and Groups for better multi-tasking
The global tech giant officially releases its new line of Surface hardware devices tomorrow, NZ time, with Windows 11 pre-installed.