Sources close to Microsoft told me this week that the software giant has started a mysterious new software project, called Project M, which might be a replacement for the Windows shell in Longhorn. Heading Project M is none other than Hillel Cooperman, the user experience (UE) guru that presented Longhorn’s UI ideas to developers at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in October 2003. Cooperman is reporting directly to Chris Jones, who has recently returned to the Windows client team. Jones, in turn, reports directly to Will Poole, the Microsoft senior vice president in charge of the Windows client. Project M is described internally only as Windows "shell enhancements," a mysteriously vague description. The project is secret even from most people at Microsoft and won’t likely be added to Longhorn until the Beta 2 or even Release Candidate 0 (RC0) release. One source theorized that Project M is to Longhorn as is Luna to Windows XP: Early Windows XP (then known as "Whistler") betas utilized a UI called Watercolor that was eventually dropped. The UI we see today in the Longhorn pre-Betas, and will soon see in Beta 1, could likewise be pushed aside for something more visually impressive.
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Interesting, I have to say what I saw presented at PDC 2003 by Hillel Cooperman was breathtaking and I hope to be awed again at this years PDC 2005. Paul confused the post though, first he said Project M replacement for the Longhorn shell, then he said "add-on" to the Windows Longhorn shell. For all we know, it could be a bunch of themes or a Longhorn based version of Plus!
As for the Watercolor theme introduced in Windows Whistler, I think it has a more high quality and professional look compared to Luna, the Windows Team should have retained it as an additional optional theme for Windows XP users. As for testing Longhorn, its a bit strange to know the amount of persons who are desperate (including myself) to test BETA 1, yet all the nice user experience stuff we have all are craving for won’t be seen until PDC and BETA 2.