First big Windows 11 update released with Android app support, taskbar improvements, and redesigned Notepad and Media Player; Microsoft promises more down the line
With Windows 11, Microsoft has moved to an annual release cadence for major updates instead of the biannual releases we saw with Windows 10. However, the software giant did clarify that improvements to the user experience will make their way to the public release of the OS as cumulative updates independent of the annual update cycle. Now, we are seeing the first such major update to the public "Cobalt" release of Windows 11.
Microsoft hasn't given any generic name to this non-security update, but it does add a fair bit of new functionality. These include:
- public release of Windows Subsystem for Android via the Amazon Appstore Preview app — works only with an Amazon US account for now
- microphone mute controls on the taskbar — works only with Microsoft Teams for now
- share screen of any open app right from the taskbar — works only with Microsoft Teams for now
- live weather icon as an entry point to Widgets flyout
- Office web integration in the Recommended section of the Start Menu
- clock and date on the taskbar of the secondary monitor
Though the Amazon Appstore requires a US-based Amazon account, it is very much possible to directly sideload apks of your choice via the command line or install third-party app stores such as Aptoide. It is also possible to use Google Play services, but that requires homebrewing the Windows Subsystem for Android. Check out our Windows Subsystem for Android how-to for more information.
Apart from the aforementioned features, Microsoft is also offering a redesigned Notepad and the new Media Player app. The new Notepad now offers a dark mode and comes with rounded corners, new app animations, WinUI 3 controls, and multi-step undo.
The new Media Player app supplants Groove Music and aims to be a one-stop solution for all your local media. Any playlists created in Groove Music will automatically transition to the new Media Player. Though the new Media Player can play a variety of audio and video formats, Microsoft is only replacing Groove Music and not the Movies and TV app.
Microsoft is slowly but surely updating legacy Win32 apps to match Windows 11's design aesthetic. We are already hearing that a new Task Manager, transparent title bars for classic Win32 apps, desktop stickers, and major improvements to the taskbar including drag and drop support are on the way for the next big Windows release aka Sun Valley 2 that is scheduled to be released sometime in October.
The public release of Windows 11 will also get new features outside of the annual update cycle either via the Microsoft Store or via Windows Update. Windows 11 already offers a Feature Experience Pack and Web Experience Pack that allow for componentizing and updating aspects of the OS independent of a full OS update.
For now, users can check Windows Update for the optional KB5010414 cumulative update. Since this is an optional update, you will have to manually install it when offered. Doing so will change the OS build to 22000.527.