The update, which is being delivered as part f the normal Windows monthly update process, will be available for users with devices running Windows 11, version 22H2. The release is an optional non-security preview that will become officially available on March 14, the Patch Tuesday for March, through standard channels such as Windows Update, Windows Server Update Service (WSUS) and the Microsoft Update Catalog. The update can also be installed as a preview today by visiting the Windows Update settings.
The Windows 11 update is highlighted by the addition of a typable Windows search box combined with the new AI-powered Bing search engine in the taskbar, which Microsoft designed to put search needs for Windows in one easy-to-find location.
According to Microsoft, the search box is one of the most widely used features in Windows with over half a billion users each month, and the addition of a typable search box powered by the new Bing is designed to help users get the information they are looking for faster than ever before.
Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, writes in a blog that the new Bing is giving users access to information and resources they didn’t have before.
“For me personally, this technology is having incredible impact on how my kids, and I communicate with my dad, their grandfather, in Greek,” Panay writes. “It’s important for us to stay connected to where we’re from, including speaking the language, and with the new Bing chat experience we can learn and practice writing and speaking in Greek with my dad. It’s inspiring and changing the way we communicate and connect in ways we never imagined.”
However, the new Bing experience in Windows 11 is not yet available to Azure Active Directory and Active Directory accounts, the company notes in a Tech Community blog.
“We are exploring how we can bring this same innovation to the commercial space, while providing proper control and ample time so you can deploy these experiences in a way that works for your organization,” the company says.
Another feature included in the new update is the ability to link an iPhone directly to a Windows 11 PC via a new preview of Phone Link for iOS, a new Android phone link experience, new touch experiences, full screen widgets, quick access to the Windows 365 app, a deeper Teams integration, new AI features in Start and ongoing updates designed to make the operating system more accessible and sustainable.
Additionally, the update includes new AI-powered recommended content within the Start menu for Windows 11 Pro devices and higher that are Azure Active Directory joined. These recommendations are designed to help users prepare for upcoming meetings, quickly access collaborative files and more. These same features are also available in File explorer.
What IT admins need to know about the new Windows 11 update
Microsoft is also making the Windows 365 app generally available in the Microsoft Store so users go directly from their desktop to their Cloud PC. In addition to giving users a personalized experience tailored to their settings and work style, this is also designed to help reduce friction for IT administrators who can enable employees with a single sign-on experience.
While the Windows 11 update is being released outside of the company’s original feature update cadence, Microsoft says Windows 11 will continue to have an annual update cadence, with a new version released in the second half of this year.
In a Tech Community blog, Microsoft says the new features are being released now due to feedback from users.
“By delivering new value through servicing technology more often, we can help your organization benefit from improved security, productivity, and collaboration today in a proven, reliable way without sacrificing quality,” the company says.
For organization using Windows Update for Business or WSUS to control which updates are offered to managed devices, admins can use a new client policy to control the rollout of select features introduced via servicing.
However, features introduced via servicing behind this commercial control will be off for Windows-Update-manage device until they are released as part of the next annual feature update, the company says.
“For example, the new touch-optimized taskbar (and collapsed taskbar behavior) will be off by default. IT admins can enable it using the new client policy outlined in Commercial control for continuous innovation. (Note that not all features shipped via servicing will be behind this new control.)
Microsoft is also introducing new policies to enable admins to configure features in their organizations preferred way. For example, search on the taskbar can be configured via ConfigureSearchOnTaskbarMode to show the search box, search icon and label, search icon only, or hide search on the taskbar altogether.
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