Get ready for TikTok on your PC - and Uber and a whole universe of other mobile apps.
Microsoft says Windows 11 - its first major upgrade of its PC software for six years - will act as a hub for all your devices.
As part of that push, it's entered a partnership with Amazon that will see Amazon's Android App Store sit alongside Microsoft's own App Store. It's part of a broad thrust to update Windows for the age of apps.
It means you'll be able to run an Android smartphone app like TikTok on your Windows 11 PC. The same will apply for thousands of other apps you've got on your Samsung smartphone or other handset that runs on Google's Android software (that is, practically any model that isn't an iPhone).
Windows 11 - previewed overnight (watch the full event video here) - will be free for Windows 10 users from later this year.
Microsoft chief product officer Panos Panay said if you search for an app and it happens to be an Android app, you'll need to sign into your Amazon account to download it. The first time, you'll also have to download the Amazon Appstore as a stand-alone app. From then on, Android apps from Amazon will run like any other Windows app.
Panay said Microsoft will invite other Android app stores to appear on Windows.
And while Windows 11 is really designed to work better with Android phones, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said he'd like Windows to play well with iPhones, too - although it's largely up to Apple. He'd welcome Apple bringing iMessage or other services to Windows, Nadella said. (Apple has been making its own moves to make mobile apps accessible to its desktop and laptop users.)
Making Windows more friendly to mobile apps makes sense given the rise of smartphones since the last major upgrade to Microsoft's OS.
But by the same token, rumours of the PC's demise have been exaggerated. While IDC tracked a decline in sales every year between 2011 and 2019, 2020 saw PC sales bounce back to hit an all-time high during the pandemic-hit 2020 and the attendant remote-working boom. Smartphone sales fell as punters diverted funds for a new laptop.
Still, apps have still been influential on the way we work and play, and Microsoft has made tweaks to the look and feel of Windows to make your PC seem a bit like a giant phone - especially if it supports a touchscreen interface.
There will be an option for a "Widgets" view on your Windows desktop with apps that show the likes of news and weather (which will remind some of the old Windows Mobile, or even a swished-up take on Windows 8 tiles).
There's also "Snap Layouts" which will arrange your apps side-by-side on a screen, tailored to the six of the display. If you're on a smaller laptop, you will see four layout options. A big monitor? Six options.
There's also a new feature called "Desktops," similar to Apple's MacOS Spaces, Windows 11 lets you create different labelled desktops with different apps you use. You can, for instance, make one desktop your "home," with your shopping lists and personal email, and another your "work", with all your spreadsheets and Slack channels.
A smarter Start Menu offers cloud-powered recommendations of the apps and files Windows thinks you need next. For example, if you've just looked at a Microsoft Word document on your phone, it will pop up on your PC here under Start.
Microsoft Teams is more deeply integrated, for easy video calls and other Covid-age collaboration (foes may see the move as a bid to crimp Zoom's popularity). And whatever your video app of choice, Windows 11 will float a virtual "mute" button onscreen in a bid to reduce that endless scrambling for the volume control after a host informs you a whole meeting can hear your wheezing and coffee slurping.
And Windows 11 looks like it will have appeal for console gamers in the Microsoft Xbox camp. An Xbox Pass will allow Xbox Cloud Gaming on your PC via its browser, and multiplayer gaming across PCs and consoles. Microsoft says Windows 11 will also have support for "AutoHDR" (the initials stand for High Dynamic Range, or the technology that most modern TVs use to improve contrast). The idea is that if a game has standard dynamic range graphics, Windows 11 will be able to work with your graphics hardware (if it has the grunt) to add more depth and richness to the picture.
Microsoft also said it won't require app developers to sell through its payment system - a pointed statement at a time when Apple is under legal and regulatory heat over its up to 30 per cent cut on sales made via its App Store, and restrictions on apps from other sources (among other arguments, Apple says it's App Store is better policed than the Android and Windows camps).
Meantime, while Microsoft's own attempt at the phone market - via buying Nokia's handset business - fell on its face, its central role in the cloud computing boom has helped it maintain its position as one of the world's most valuable companies.
Microsoft's market cap topped US$2 trillion for the first time earlier this week, making it the planet's second most valuable stock after Apple (US$2.2t), and comfortably ahead of third-placed Amazon (a mere US$1.7t) and Google in fourth (US$1.6t).
Last year saw Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announce Microsoft will build three "hyperscale" data centres in northwest Auckland in a build running to the hundreds of millions. Construction on the giant server farms - which will help underpin the cloud boom in online business and gaming - is already under way for 2022 openings.
Windows 11 will be more demanding on hardware than Windows 10. You'll need a processor from the last three or four years, at least 4GB of Ram and 64GB of free storage.. If you're unsure, Microsoft has an online checker here.