Windows fans were in for a surprise when they tuned in to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote address at the most recent Microsoft Ignite conference. As noticed on Twitter and brought to our attention by Windows Central, an otherwise unremarkable announcement of new Teams features abruptly cut to a version of Windows that is rather different from the one we’re used to.
In the portion about Microsoft Teams Immersive Meeting Experiences for Meta Quest at 42:42 in this keynote video, there is a brief mention of the mysterious operating system. While generally comparable to Windows 11, it has a floating taskbar that cannot be customised in the stock OS. A floating island-like space at the top of the screen and information about the battery, date, and weather in the upper corners are additional features.
What the masters of Windows briefly displayed to us could be anything from a sneak peek at an internal development version of Windows, a mistake in which the video maker neglected to turn off third-party UI mods, a mock-up that doesn’t exist outside of Microsoft Designer, or a strange Easter egg to see who’s paying attention.
Even though the battery metre says we’re looking at a portable device, it’s unclear if we’re viewing a desktop or mobile version of the OS. Some of the displayed text may have a handwritten appearance, which could indicate pen input, like that on a Surface, yet the wires that are visible at the bottom of the frame point to a desktop screen.
If Windows 12, also known as Next Valley, is what the future of Windows will look like, then its UI designers may have drawn inspiration from Linux’s Gnome 43 desktop, which allows you to set the Favorites bar to float at the bottom of the screen even though it isn’t the default, or from macOS, which changed its shelf-like dock into a floating flat area several versions ago. The icons on the bar are the same as those in the most recent Windows releases.