Did Microsoft accidentally leak the next version of Windows?

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A brief outline of an office. Just a moment to take in what you were looking at. But then it hits you. Did Microsoft accidentally leak its next version of Windows at the company’s Ignite event? Many spectators of the event ask themselves the same question.

Zac Bowden of Windows Central did a great job breaking down exactly what you saw. For a while, there was a Windows desktop with a floating taskbar at the bottom and a Mac-esque Dock at the top, and a floating search box in the center of the screen.

picture: Microsoft

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this design. Microsoft works on a three-year update cycle and the next version of Windows is known internally as “Next Valley”. The UI shown briefly at Ignite matches what we know from Next Valley. Of course, the update is not expected before 2024.

For starters, the floating taskbar at the bottom of the screen is directly inspired by macOS, right down to the rounded corners and frosted glass bottom. Icons look bigger and brighter, a la macOS.

Then the toolbar at the top had a battery icon, a Wi-Fi icon, the date on the right, and the weather on the left. This was all on the same frosted glass background as the taskbar. If you didn’t know better, you might think it was actually a MacBook running Windows.

But the giant floating search bar at the top middle of the screen belies that notion. It was pure Microsoft of the icons to search for and near the font in the search field. What he was doing there on the screen is a big question.

Is Microsoft planning to add a large floating search box to Windows? If so, it could work like Apple’s new Dynamic Island on iPhone. In fact, we saw a leak for Dynamic Island on Mac, and we weren’t fans. It would take up a lot of usable space, slow down the system with unnecessary animations, and not be very useful. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft plans to handle it.

This brief glimpse of a strange Windows operating system may have been nothing more than a mockup of someone’s idea for Windows. It could have been an experimental concept that accidentally made it into the presentation. Or it could have been an intentional leak of what Microsoft has planned in Next Valley, giving us a glimpse of what’s to come.

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