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Tantalizing Hints of Windows 8 Hit the Internet

Haven’t upgraded to Windows 7 yet? Brace yourself: Work on Windows 8 is well under way.

A pre-release version of Microsoft’s next operating system — which isn’t officially scheduled to launch until 2012 — reportedly leaked onto the Internet over the weekend, leading to an explosion of speculation among Microsoft watchers about what new versions and features the company may be developing.

Chief among the features pinpointed is the widespread implementation of the Ribbon interface, a dynamic, icon-filled replacement for traditional menus unveiled with Microsoft Office 2007. Though controversial, the interface garnered rave reviews and became a love-it-or-leave-it reason to upgrade to the latest productivity suite.

The leaked Windows 8 screenshots suggest Microsoft intends to add the Ribbon interface to the basic operating system itself, wrote enthusiasts Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott.

“In Windows 8, Ribbon usage is accelerating again, and Microsoft’s next major OS will include this UI in the most visible of all possible places, Windows Explorer,” the pair blogged on the site Within Windows. They called the new interface “only half-finished and, frankly, of dubious value,” arguing that the inconsistent implementation of the new look and feel suggest it is controversial within Microsoft, as well.

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