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At first blush, Microsoft's Windows 11 to the operating system software that powers most of the world's PCs. The software , reminiscent of smartphones and tablets. Microsoft also added capabilities to help people navigate the pandemic-redefined world, like built-in video chat software, new ways to organize apps and documents on the screen, and technology to make video games look better.
But its most important feature is what it doesn't do. After , Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said his company's technology is being built to work with as many products as possible, including software for competing Google Android smartphones.
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"Today, the world needs a more open platform -- one that allows apps to become platforms in their own right," he said. "Windows is a platform where things that are bigger than Windows can be born."
He pushed this point by inviting Google to bring its app store onto Windows. He also told developers they're now allowed to sell programs on the Microsoft Store for , a stark shift from Apple's and Google's 15% minimum take that's and antitrust probes around the world. And he said he'd welcome Apple's FaceTime and other technologies on Windows 11 and in the Microsoft Store.
"We want to remove the barriers that too often exist today and provide real choice and connection," he said. "Operating systems and devices should mold to our needs, not the other way around."
Microsoft's move with Windows 11 marks the latest in a sea change for the world's most highly valued software company. Two decades ago, Microsoft's attempts to crush competitors through its Windows software led a federal judge to declare it a monopoly. Microsoft's sharp-elbowed tactics and problem-prone software made it so reviled that people across the tech landscape shorthanded the company as M$ in chatrooms for putting profit before the needs of people using its products.
Competitors joined in too. In the early 2000s, Google marketed its nascent search engine with the corporate ethos "Don't be Evil." And when Apple began formulating its "Get a Mac" campaign to help market its computers in 2005, it cast the Microsoft-powered PC as a bumbling and arrogant fool.
"The fact is you're selling like hotcakes now, and I've got to get my message out, so I'm doing a little buzz marketing for good old PC, the only computer you'll ever need," said the character PC, played by comedian John Hodgman, who then holds up signs saying "Amazing!" and "Totally cool!"
But things have changed since then. Google dropped its famous "Don't be evil" corporate mantra in 2015, opting instead for "Do the right thing." (Perhaps not coincidentally, the search giant's now facing antitrust scrutiny itself.) And Apple's controlling approach to the iPhone and its App Store have in Europe and the US, fueled by complaints from major partners such as Tinder dating app maker IAC, music service Spotify and Fortnite developer Epic girl games go.
Read more: Windows 11: These are the best new features, and how to use them
Meanwhile, Nadella's been instituting changes at Microsoft since he was named CEO in 2014. He's pushed Microsoft to soften its approach with partners, competitors and even within its own divisions. It's about "the renaissance as much as about just sort of fixing something that's broken," Nadella .
Now, with Windows 11, Microsoft sees an opportunity to stand out from the crowd, rather than merely compete.