Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.
If you haven't seen the news, the Internet is abuzz with a Microsoft-posted marketing video wherein an unfamiliar -- though presumably more recent -- Taskbar UI is visible on a laptop's screen. The first site to report this could-be SNAFU of Microsoft's was WinRumors. Quickly following suit, Neowin took WinRumors's headline ("Did Microsoft just leak its new Windows 8 UI?") to a completely different level by stating, "Microsoft accidentally leaks desktop Windows 8 UI." After closely examining the evidence presented, I've come to the conclusion that what we see is an amalgamation of past Microsoft thinking possibly coming to fruition. Allow me to explain.
First, here is the image WinRumors so kindly clipped out of the video, which showcases a subtly different Taskbar that only seasoned Windows enthusiasts would most-likely ever catch (or care about, but I'm one of them, so I'm not being a hater when I say that):
New Windows 8 UI?
See how the Start button is flat instead of being an orb? Part of the evidence given to support the Windows 8 UI claim is from a recent Microsoft video where the Windows team shows off some of the functionality of Windows 8. In the background, you see the following Taskbar of a Windows 8 build:
Windows 8 Taskbar
The Start button in the two images above appear to correlate, right? Well, "not so fast," I say. Proving I've far too much time on my hands and that I've cared far too much about the Windows UI for the past 11 years, below is an extremely shoddy graphic I've created in MS Paint for use with the points I have to make (click the image to see a larger version):
Start button: If you go dust off your great-grandfather's monocle and take a closer look, there appears to be a Start button gradient in the video's questionable "new UI" that likens it more to an old Windows Longhorn build 4074 Start button (when the MILExplorer registry value was set to 1) than to the actual new Windows 8 Taskbar's Start button which lacks any sort of gradient. You'll also look like Mr. Peanut with that monocle in your eye socket, so that'll be fun. (And here you were, wondering why I used that image in the article!)
Clock: That thicker-styled border around the clock looks like a miniature version of the clock face used in an old Windows Longhorn build 5219 sidebar. It's not 1:1, what with the color being black in the "new Taskbar" while the sidebar's clock is translucent, but I'm just pointing out that it looks a lot like something we've seen before from Microsoft's prototyping.
Center-justified Tasks: Long story short, Microsoft has been playing with the notion of center-justified tasks in the Taskbar since the early 2000s, as you can see by the two images I used for proof which are circa 2002-2003.
So, why am I even worrying about all of this? Well, I'm not out to prove or disprove the current theory that Microsoft accidentally revealed the new Windows 8 UI. Obviously, there's something to that theory since Microsoft has pulled the video from their site since WinRumors posited their hypothesis. Instead, my point is that what we're seeing in that UI is a bunch of old thinking that Microsoft has conceptualized at least 8 years ago. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. There's a lot of thinking that went into Windows Longhorn that I'm sure we'll see traces of (whether we know it or not) in Windows 9 and maybe even Windows 10.
All-in-all, that UI is either nothing more than another in a long line of concept Windows UIs, or it shows Microsoft is finally looking to implement some of those old ideas. There's evidence to support both conclusions from the outside looking in, but whatever the case may be, BUILD is a mere two weeks away and that's when we'll all get the whole story on Windows 8 directly from Microsoft -- no guesswork needed.
So, now that I've outed myself as a huge Windows geek (though some of you already know this about me), what do you think about this whole deal? Better yet, what are you looking forward to the most with Windows 8? If this is the UI we will come to know, do you like it or do you think it's rubbish? Let us know in the comments below!
For your entertainment, here's the video Microsoft pulled:
(UPDATE: The source of the UI has been discovered, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Windows 8. For that matter, it also has nothing to do with Microsoft, which is kind of hilarious, considering the source of the video and all (Microsoft). Read all about it in Rafael Rivera's post on WithinWindows.)
*Special thanks to Paul Thurrott and Long Zheng for showing up first in the Google Images search queries I ran to find the images I used to support my points. That is all.
-Stephen ChapmanSEO WhistleblowerRelated Windows 8 content here on ZDNet: