Microsoft is honing the user interfaces of a number of its forthcoming products in a way that the company hopes will help users find and access information.
At the heart of the redesign is the so-called task shelf component, code-named Sideshow, that will likely debut first in MSN 8, and later, in the Longhorn Windows.
"Sideshow is built to use the skinning capabilities of XP and uses XML/HTML for the tasks that are pinned, or stuck, onto the shelf itself," reads the related text on the WinBeta site.
According to the site and the accompanying screen shots, Sideshow will present users with an integrated view of MSN Messenger, Outlook and other task panes. The task panes, which are called "tickets," the site says, can include other feeds and notifications, providing regularly-updated information, such as weather maps, traffic maps and Webcam feeds.
Sideshow will be the way that Microsoft exposes to users data and information that is organized using the programming framework, code-named Avalon, that will be at the heart of Longhorn, sources said.
This week, the Neowin site posted a number of screenshots of the first beta of MSN 8. The task shelf in the MSN Explorer interface is based on the same Sideshow technology, according to tester sources.
Sideshow is a technology developed several years ago by Microsoft Research. In the fall of 2001, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates described Sideshow as "a workgroup-communications tool that utilizes desktop cameras to determine a users status and creates an enhanced version of a task bar and buddy list."
A Microsoft Research spokesman declined to comment on Sideshow. An MSN spokeswoman also did not respond by press time to questions about Sideshow.
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