2021 has been a huge year for news, including new hardware, major software updates, and one of the best years for games that Microsoft has seen in a long time. Here at Windows Central, we’ve published over 1,000 news this year, including Microsoft announcing Windows 11, the launch of new Surface hardware, and the release of Halo Infinite. From insider scoops to product launches, here are the biggest news of 2021 related to Windows, Xbox and all things Microsoft.
A brand new version of the Windows
For years, it was thought that Windows 10 would be the final version of Windows. This turned out not to be the case, as Microsoft released Windows 11 in October 2021. The new operating system builds on Windows 10 in a number of ways, including supporting all of its predecessor’s apps. Windows 11 has modernized several elements of the operating system, including the Start menu, icons, and taskbar.
This move towards simplicity has met with mixed reactions. While Windows 11 has reduced some of the complexities of the operating system’s interface, it lacks some of the functionality of Windows 10. Additionally, the Start menu and taskbar have been criticized. Many have searched for the best apps to customize Windows 11 to restore both the look of previous versions of Windows and lost functionality.
Windows 11 encountered issues before launch. A confusing set of minimum requirements and mixed signals from Microsoft’s tool to verify eligibility made it difficult to say whether some systems would be able to upgrade to Windows 11. The requirement to have TPM 2.0 was the factor. limiting for many computers. Due to this confusion, the Windows user base has been divided to some extent. While tech-savvy people know the limits and how to get around them, some consumers in general still don’t know why their PC hasn’t seen the update option.
Those who received Windows 11 got access to several new features and a new Microsoft Store. A renewed effort to get developers to work with Windows has proven successful, as several large companies have introduced their apps to the Microsoft Store, including Adobe, Zoom, and OBS. The decision to allow unpackaged apps was a big boost for Windows, as was the ability for developers to use their own revenue stream.
Gamers received some great features when upgrading to Windows 11. Many of these features were already available on the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Auto HDR works with over 1,000 DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 games. Direct storage improves load times and takes advantage of the best SSDs. DirectX 12 Ultimate also includes features for developers, including raytracing 1.1, variable rate shading, and sample return.
While Windows 11 has an updated interface and new features, many see it as an optional update, at least for now. The operating system is expected to continue to improve as Microsoft rolls out new features, such as support for Android apps. Those who want it now have probably upgraded already. Those who don’t feel the need to update can wait quite a while since Windows 10 will remain supported until 2025.
A lot of novelties Area devices
Like every year, Microsoft released several new pieces of Surface hardware in 2021. This year, the company released the Surface Pro 8, Surface Go 3, and Surface Duo 2. It also introduced the Surface Laptop Studio, a unique laptop with a floating display.
The Surface Pro 8 has undergone a design refresh that brought it closer to the Surface Pro X (although it’s slightly thicker than its Windows sibling on ARM). In many ways, the Surface Pro 8 represents the pinnacle of its form factor. It has a 13.3-inch 120Hz display, supports Thunderbolt 4, and has a great webcam. A new Slim Pen 2 stylus with haptics pairs with the Surface Pro 8 to enhance the handwriting experience. Our editor-in-chief Daniel Rubino said that “Surface Pro 8 is finally reaching its full potential with the all-new redesign for 2021”.
The Surface Laptop Studio introduces a new form factor to the PC space. It has a floating screen that can rest in different positions to facilitate a range of workflows. Of course, one of those positions is that of a traditional clamshell laptop. In this category, the Surface Laptop Studio compares to the Razer Blade 15 and the HP ENVY x360 15.
The Surface Go 3 is a more modest refresh compared to its siblings. It is identical to the Surface Go 2 in all respects except for its processor. While the device doesn’t support any new features, the entry-level model is 60% more powerful than the Go 2.
Unlike the rest of the Surface family, the Surface Duo 2 is a mobile device that runs on Android. It’s the sequel to the original Surface Duo, which received mixed reviews due to its buggy software. The Surface Duo 2 has a significantly better camera setup than its predecessor and thinner bezels as well. The hinge also has a gaze bar that can show notifications when closed, although this feature is not that versatile.
More importantly than improving the internals and general hardware specs, Microsoft has focused on the software experience with the Duo 2. While not perfect, it is significantly smoother than the first Duo. , which still hasn’t received Android 11. Microsoft has also supported the Duo 2 better than the original Duo so far, including a Day 1 update and a major December update.
A great year for the game and Xbox
2021 has turned out to be one of the most important years in Xbox history. While the Xbox Series X and S were released in 2020, the Xbox brand as a whole has seen a major boom this year. Consoles have taken off and new games have taken advantage of updated hardware.
The Xbox Game Pass added a few big name titles this year, including MLB The Show and Outriders in the spring. Psychonauts 2 and Football Manager 2022 also joined the service this year.
These titles were just appetizers compared to Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and Age of Empires IV, all of which became available on Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass on their respective launch days.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda was finalized in 2021, which should only help the company’s game library move forward. Bethesda’s games should also diversify Xbox’s proprietary lineup a bit.
A chase global chip shortage
The ongoing global chip shortage started before 2021, but it continued throughout the year. Component shortages affected the availability of the best GPUs, the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and PlayStation 5. Scalpers only compounded the problem, making it nearly impossible to acquire new gadgets.
NVIDIA released several RTX 30 series GPUs in 2021. While these are great graphics cards, they have been difficult to buy. Scalpers and robots have swallowed up any stock that has become available, creating an expensive second-hand market. To get their hands on some premium graphics, some gamers have bought the best RTX 3080 laptops.
AMD also released several high-end graphics cards in its RX 6000 series this year. Like competing cards from NVIDIA, AMD GPUs have been hard to come by in stock. For example, the RX 6800 is a great GPU for QHD gaming, but it’s out of stock at almost every retailer.
Some surprising stories
While not the biggest stories in terms of traditional current affairs, a few articles have captured the interest of our readers much more than others. These stood out by covering surprising topics or generating unexpected interest.
Earlier this year, a hidden message was found on the White House’s new website. It was just an invitation to apply for coding related jobs, but it gained a lot of traction. Large companies often hide similar messages on their websites, but the White House invitation has gained attention due to the office’s stature.
Despite Microsoft’s release of Windows 11 this year, Armenians seem to prefer Windows XP. According to StatCounter, in September 2021, 53.5% of the country’s desktops were running Windows XP. It’s unclear why so many Armenian desktops run XP, but the numbers don’t lie.
Forza Horizon 5 was one of the best games to launch in 2021. Soon after the game became available, a strange trend emerged. As part of an effort to progress the game quickly, people would buy Willys Jeeps by the hundreds, win a Super Wheelspin, and then gift the car to a random player. As a result, thousands of Willys Jeeps have flooded the Forza Horizon fan base.