Microsoft has officially launched its next operating system, calling it a “major milestone” in the company’s history.

Windows 11 will launch to developers as early as next week, with the wider roll out expected before the end of the year. It will be free for existing Windows 10 users, though a minimum of 64 gigabytes of storage and 4 gigabytes of RAM is required.

Announcing some of the new features, product manager Panos Panay highlighted a fundamental change to how updates and patches are rolled out. In future, he said, they would be around 40% smaller but released more often – and will update in the background. This will not only have a much-reduced impact on device users, but also offer security improvements.

As anticipated given the change to working patterns in recent years, Windows 11 will work closely with Teams, with it integrated directly into the taskbar (itself now re-named ‘the dock’). This will allow users to jump onto calls or access chats quickly and easily.

Elsewhere, the app functionality has been vastly improved, by allowing Android apps to run on Windows 11 and allowing for easier casting to televisions or other peripherals. The Microsoft Store will also get a redesign, offering better curated content and more choice for users. Microsoft also pledged to share more profits from app sales with developers, in light of criticism thrown at Apple for its business practices in this area.

The most noticeable aesthetic change in Windows 11 is the centralisation of the start button, which remains at the bottom of the screen but moves to the middle, along with all the other dock icons.

Touch and gestures are also set for large improvements, with optimisations and bigger touch targets to resolve weaker points that had been identified since Windows 8.

Remarking how the current climate influenced Windows 11, Microsoft chief Satya Nadella said at the launch event: “Creation is going through a sea change as the balance between consumption and creation changes.

“With this new generation of Windows, we are unleashing the innovation and ingenuity inherent in each of us.”