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In the beginning, there was the sidebar! Early thinking in this area consisted of everything from the Microsoft Research team (via an application called Sideshow) to the MSN and Windows team collaborating on visual mock-ups, like the one pictured above. The sidebar was going to be a centerpiece in Windows Longhorn, giving you instant access to the information you most wanted to see -- everything from contacts, to news, to documents and more.
Although a the sidebar made it into Windows Vista, it was more of an afterthought by then, existing as a separate application that was ultimately unutilized and quickly abandoned.