Sources have confirmed the report by ZDNN's Mary Jo Foley that the next version of Windows (Windows XP) will sport a new UI (Luna). No one seems to know what the new UI will entail, however, because the company has strictly controlled leaks to the press. My sources have universally come back with no further information beyond the existence of Luna. What's curious about the change, of course, is its timing. Months ago, Microsoft introduced a new skinnable UI (Visual Styles) to Windows XP (then called Whistler), and Beta 2 will be very close to a shipping product. With Windows XP following roughly the same development period that Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) followed a year earlier, it's hard to understand how a major new UI could be introduced this late in the game.
"To prevent leaks, testers are completely in the dark," a source told me yesterday. "Luna will come with Beta 2, but I can't say more than that," another source said cryptically. According to Foley, the Luna UI could very well be an XML-based .NET shell. All the icons will change, as will Internet Explorer (IE) 6.0's look and feel. The transition to high-color icons has been underway for some time (see my Whistler reviews on the Windows SuperSite for details). That IE 6.0 might be closely tied to Windows XP has been a matter of speculation for some weeks now. According to reports, Microsoft might release IE 6.0 only as part of Windows XP and not as a separate free download for other Windows OSs. This scenarion is unlikely, however.
Whether Luna is simply a new skin for Visual Styles or a truly integrated .NET feature remains to be seen, but we should know soon: Windows XP Beta 2 is set to ship later this month.