Windows 11 launch: Everything we know about Microsoft's big event tomorrow

It looks like Windows 11 is on the way. On Thursday, Microsoft will unveil "the next generation of Windows" at a virtual event, promising big changes to the longstanding operating system -- and a likely change to the name Windows 11. The news comes shortly after Microsoft rolled out the latest version of the Windows 10 operating system, the Windows 10 May 2021 update (also known as version 21H1).

At the Microsoft Build developers conference on May 25, CEO Satya Nadella said Microsoft is planning "one of the most significant updates of Windows of the past decade," confirming rumors about a major redesign on the horizon for the 1.3 billion users of the OS in 2021. And in mid-June, Microsoft quietly announced that it's ending support for Windows 10 in 2025. Reported leaks of the new software show the name Windows 11, and a brand-new design. (Here's every change we're hoping to see in Windows 11, should it come to fruition.)

Here's what we know so far about the next major Windows update, including potential release dates, new features and leaks, and the name change.

What new features will Windows 11 include?

The update, reportedly code-named Sun Valley, could bring a redesigned Start menu, Action Center, File Explorer and Taskbar, with a more modern look and new features, according to a Windows Central report. Leaked images first posted on Chinese site Baidu and picked up by The Verge show off a more Mac-like interface, with a new Start menu, home screen and startup sound. As CNET editor Ian Sherr reported, Microsoft may also revamp the software to make it easier to move between work and personal devices, as more people move to a hybrid work schedule.

Another factor: Microsoft said that its Windows 10X OS, designed for dual-screen devices like the Surface Duo and the Surface Neo, will not actually be released. Instead, Microsoft will build parts of that technology into other parts of Windows and products from the company, according to a blog post in May.

The Windows Central report said that it's likely some of the feature updates will be based on the same experiences found in Windows 10X, but customized for desktop.

When will Microsoft release Windows 11?

We're likely to find out when the big Windows update will arrive at Microsoft's Windows 10 event on Thursday. CNET's sister site ZDNet previously reported that it's targeted for the second half of the year, while Windows Central reported that it will arrive around the holiday season.

Microsoft said it did not have any further information to share at this time.

Will the new update actually be called Windows 11?

With the release of Windows 10 back in 2015, Microsoft said that this would be "the last version of Windows" -- so it seemed unlikely that it would be called Windows 11. But now that Microsoft has officially said it will end support for Windows 10 in 2025, and leaks include the name Windows 11, the change seems all but confirmed. Nadella called it "the next generation of Windows" in his keynote speech at Microsoft Build.

The Verge also noted that the event invitation includes a logo and shadow that looks like the number 11, and that the event is taking place at 11 a.m. ET, which is not typical for Seattle-based Microsoft.

Naturally, we won't know for sure until Microsoft formally announces the update.

For more, check out everything to know about the most recent Windows 10 May 2021 update, the best Windows 10 hidden features we've found and six simple security changes all Windows 10 users need to make.