Microsoft submitted a patent application that suggests the company will be holding on to the right-click context menu Windows users are used to.
Both the description of the patent as well as the illustration do not immediately imply any major changes to the context menu as it is implemented today. The most significant change may be a semantic feature to present related files to a selected file.
However, the filing date of November 2010, as well as one particularly interesting paragraph describing an "example implementation," hint at an evolutionary stage for the old Windows feature:
"FIG. 6 depicts a procedure 600 in an example implementation in which properties are used as pivots to navigate through files in a user interface. A right click of a representation of a file is detected (block 602). A user, for instance, may perform a two-finger tap-and-hold gesture over a display the representation, make a gesture "in the air" that is captured by a camera as part of a natural user interface, through use of a mouse, stylus, and so forth. Additionally, the representation may be configured in a variety of ways, such as an icon, thumbnail, textual description, and so forth. As illustrated, the user may select a representation of a patent application document using the right click."
While the touch UI has some appeal, the interesting part obviously is the mention of an "in the air gesture" that corresponds with a Kinect interface for Windows as well as Microsoft's early intentions to not limit Kinect to the Xbox 360, but move it to a traditional computing interface. Kinect was launched on November 4, 2010.
There has been suspicion that Microsoft has been betting big on Kinect for Windows, or at least an evolved version of the device that features a much higher resolution as well as a capability to detect more granular body parts, such as fingers. Such a feature would enable Microsoft to offer gesture-based context menus and evolve the touch UI to a gesture UI.