Did Microsoft accidentally leak the next version of Windows?

A brief glimpse of a desktop. 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 during the company’s Ignite event? Many watching the event are asking the same question.

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

a view of the strange new windows from ignite 2022
image: Microsoft

This is not the first time we’ve seen this design. Microsoft is working on a three-year update cycle and the next version of Windows is known internally as “Next Valley.” The user interface shown off briefly at Ignite matches up with what we know about Next Valley. Of course, the update is not due until 2024. 

For starters, the floating taskbar along the bottom of the screen takes direct inspiration from macOS, down to the rounded corners and the frosted glass background. The icons look bigger and brighter, a la macOS. 

Next, the toolbar along the top featured a battery icon, Wi-Fi icon, the date on the right, and weather on the left. All of this was on the same frosted glass background as the taskbar. If you didn’t know better, you might think this was actually a MacBook running Windows.

But the giant floating search bar in the upper-middle of the screen belies that notion. It was pure Microsoft from the icons to search and close to the font in the search box. What it was doing there on the screen is a big question.

Is Microsoft planning on adding a big floating search box to Windows? If so, it could work a lot like Apple’s new Dynamic Island on iPhone. In fact, we’ve seen a leak for Dynamic Island on Mac, and we were not fans. It would take up a lot of usable space, slow the system down with needless animations, and while not being terribly useful. It’ll 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 mock-up of somebody’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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