At Microsoft’s Mix conference, the company showed off some of its early work on Windows 7, giving attendees a rare look into the birth of an operating system’s user interface. Try to imagine life with some of these aborted attempts at a new operating system: Would you have stood for these features?
One early concept for Windows 7 (dating back to early 2006, even before the official design process started in 2007) put thumbnails of running applications straight into the taskbar. This wasn’t an image, or an animated demonstration – it was real code, running in Windows Vista. Microsoft produced a lot of samples like this, trying out ideas and using real world prototypes with real users. Taskbar thumbnails didn’t make the cut – while they show some information about hidden windows, they don’t show enough, and they take up far too much screen real estate. Failed experiments help just as much as those which succeed, according to Microsoft. The results of this experiment of led to “Bat Signal” and eventually Aero Peek.