Microsoft Offers Possible First Look at Future Windows UI Design

The mysterious interface in the MS keynote
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Eagle-eyed Windows enthusiasts watching Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote at the recent Microsoft Ignite conference were in for a surprise. An otherwise mundane announcement of new Teams functionality suddenly cut to a version of Windows slightly different from the one we’re used to, as spotted on Twitter (opens in new tab) and brought to our attention by Windows Central (opens in new tab)

The mystery operating system appears briefly at around 42:42 in this keynote video, in the section about Microsoft Teams Immersive Meeting Experiences for Meta Quest. While broadly similar to Windows 11 (opens in new tab), it features a floating taskbar unlike any you can create in the vanilla OS. Additional features include a floating island-like area at the top of the screen and battery, date, and weather information in the top corners. 

Speculation abounds. What the Windows overlords briefly showed us could be anything from a glimpse at an internal development version of Windows,  an error that saw the video maker forget to turn off third-party UI mods, a mock-up that doesn't exist outside Microsoft Designer, or a weird Easter egg to see who's paying attention. It's not even clear whether we're looking at a desktop or mobile version of the OS, though the battery meter suggests it's a portable machine. The handwritten look of some of the displayed text may also point toward pen input, such as that on a Surface (opens in new tab), but the cables visible at the bottom of the frame suggest a desktop screen.

If this is the future of Windows - Windows 12, aka Next Valley - we're looking at, then its UI designers are taking inspiration from macOS, which converted its shelf-like dock into a floating flat area several versions ago, or the Gnome 43 desktop used in Linux (opens in new tab), in which you can set the Favorites bar to float at the bottom of the screen even though it's not the default. The icons in the bar are identical to those in current versions of Windows.

Next Valley, expected in 2024, will be the second major release since Windows 10 became the 'last version of Windows' in 2015. Nothing is known about it outside Microsoft's locked vaults, apart from the code name. However, Windows Central quotes 'sources' that the new look "is representative of the design goals that Microsoft is hoping to achieve with the next version of Windows".

Ian Evenden
Freelance News Writer

Ian Evenden is a UK-based news writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He’ll write about anything, but stories about Raspberry Pi and DIY robots seem to find their way to him.

  • coromonadalix
    Fire these developers and go to Linux variants, the way i see it, will have a crap Win12 version than Win 11, they will find a way to destroy what was good in file management, contexts etc ....
    Reply
  • Giroro
    It is a wrongheaded mistake to think they need to waste more screen space on their terrible spammy knockoff UI. Less pixels need to be used on the interfaces, not more. Did they learn nothing from Windows 8?
    I don't need or want an Android notification drawer on a desktop computer. It doesn't make any sense, and would actively get in the way. Did you ever see a popup ad in the 90s and think "I want an easier way to get these ads baked directly into my operating system"?

    The people designing Windows 11 simply don't use Windows on a daily basis. Someone in midlevel management is trying to tank the product. There's no other explanation for this continued chain of backwards decisions.
    Most companies fire people that openly hate their products, so it's weird that Microsoft apparently makes those people design leads and managers on Windows, instead.

    I hate the clipped corners on the task bar, but hopefully it can at least be moved to vertical. There's zero chance I keep windows 11 installed on a computer until they restore such an extremely basic functional customization.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    I can see it in the future: MS will advertise the capability to move the taskbar to the top with just a click n' slide; biggest selling point of Win12.

    ...

    Le sigh...

    Regards u_u
    Reply
  • Sippincider
    Is Steve Ballmer back at Microsoft?
    Reply
  • velocityg4
    If you're gonna change the UI Microsoft. Just use LCARS.
    Reply
  • George³
    Giroro said:
    Less pixels need to be used on the interfaces, not more
    Caught! It seems a singularly strange minimalist look for the visual representation of an operating system, when the industry and people are mainly looking to the future and forward development, not back to the caves. Contemporary hardware is so powerful that the number of pixels in the operating system interface is not the factor causing poor performance.
    Reply
  • waltc3
    Absolutely horrid. Microsoft had it right with "Win10 forever", imo. Watching them constantly reinventing the wheel is becoming a real bore. Would much rather see them concentrate on core file systems and the like, although they are doing some nice things with gaming compression in various formats by letting the GPU handle most things. I like Win11 OK, although I don't see any of the new stuff that couldn't have gone right into Win10. Features like Auto-HDR, for instance, began life in Win10 builds--then Microsoft made them Win11-exclusive. I always thought "Windows" followed by the year, like "Windows 2022", for instance, would have been ideal. Then Microsoft could release new versions every couple of years--while maintaining its current update strategies, etc.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    So will Windows 13 finally bring back a proper UI...
    Reply
  • Mandark
    It’s all win 10 underneath. From a command prompt type in the word VER you will see the version number says 10.

    win 11 is 10 with a newer ui. That’s basically it

    Windows 10 forever means they’re just going to continuously develop this off the same code base
    Reply
  • I shudder to think of the disparity of how many billions Microsoft has spent on the UI and how little they've spent on stability, functionality and ease of use.

    Compared to XP Windows gets uglier by the release (not saying XP was pretty), less stable, and less "mine". Things that could be done in a click now take several clicks. Things are all over the place and this seems an intentional move.

    Windows has been on the wrong track for over a decade.

    Whoever said "Dumb 'em down and take away control" hit the nail on the head.
    Reply