We’re just one week away from finding out what Microsoft has in store for the next version of Windows, but developer build leaks indicate Windows 11 is getting a dramatic visual overhaul.
A set of screenshots published to Chinese social media platform Baidu reveal a softer, minimalist-looking Windows. The Start menu remains, but is now centered with the rest of the taskbar instead of off to the left. The overall aesthetic is very similar to the now-canceled Windows 10X, which Microsoft intended for dual-screen devices. I can’t help but notice some similarities to macOS and all its iterations. There are also some elements of Chrome OS in the way apps are placed in the Taskbar. It’s not surprising, considering Chrome OS is intended for two-in-one touch-capable devices, just like Windows 10 and 11.
The Start menu in Windows 11 has been significantly pared down and stripped of all dynamic graphical elements, like those currently in Windows 10. There are no more Live Tiles, but there are still pinnable apps and quick access buttons for shutting down and restarting the device. Additional screenshots from the developers build have surfaced today, and XDA’s look at Windows 11 show the Start menu in dark mode populated with icons and shortcuts, which appears more pleasing than what we can see from the Baidu leaks. It also gives us a better indication that what’s coming next week is a pretty big change.
The rest of XDA’s screenshots show similar menu structures to what Windows 10 has now. The Taskbar appears centered by default, as there’s a screenshot showing you can go into the settings panel to place it back on the left, where it’s been since Windows 95. Curiously, there’s also a widgets feature. XDA’s screenshots indicate the ability to pin updating sports and news tickers to the desktop, plus a weather forecast. This feature might replace Live Tiles since they were intended to be Microsoft’s version of widgets.
Lastly, we need to talk about Windows 11's new default wallpapers, available in both light and dark mode versions. It’s a bit more avant-garde than what one would typically expect from enterprise-minded Microsoft. Frankly, it looks like a loofah from afar, which I’m taking to indicate is Microsoft’s way of expressing the fluidity of its new operating system.
Microsoft said that instead of bringing Windows 10X to market, it would leverage “learnings” from its journey and integrate it into other parts of Windows. If you’ve looked at past images of the killed OS released by Microsoft and compare them to what we’re seeing now, it’s clear Microsoft is making an OS that works on different form factors. Why else would it simplify the GUI to be a little less “graphic” and much more “interface”?
But nothing’s official until Microsoft lays it out for us at its June 24 event. We’ll be covering it here at Gizmodo, so stay tuned.