Early this morning, two German-language blogs, Computerbase.de and Winfuture.de posted the same set of 21 screenshots, which appear to genuinely represent an early (and possibly final) build of the "Windows Technical Preview" we're all expecting to see at the end of September. If you haven't yet browsed the screenshots, there's a complete set on Imgur.
The software is marked Windows Technical Preview, Build 9834 and dated September 8 (build 9834.fbl_partner_eeap.140908.0936). The shots are date-stamped September 11 and time-stamped from 10:38 to 11:06. If those are German time stamps (UTC + 1), they correspond to 01:38 to 02:06 a.m., today, Seattle time.
While all of the screenshots of Windows "Next" that I've seen to date have obvious flaws, this set appears genuine. That opinion is bolstered by Brad Sams' observation on Neowin that the pictures "align to several of the items that we have reported on, such as the notification center, the surveys as well, and the charms bar moving inside the Modern app windows. There are a couple of flags, however, as there are missing components that are likely coming to Threshold, but this is probably because this is an external build given to partners."
Sams is the only person I know who appears to have had access to multiple builds of Windows Next. Elsewhere, Mary Jo Foley has a good overview of the screenshots on her ZDNet blog, and Paul Thurrott has an excellent two-part review that dissects each screen in turn.
This build includes a Notification Center implemented as a taskbar icon on the right side, next to the tray; Metro apps with title bars; and windowed Metro apps with the charms relocated to the upper-left corner of the window, all as expected. Here are the unexpected parts:
Slide 1: The Pre-Release Software License Agreement is substantially different from the Windows 8.1 Preview release (PDF), particularly because it does not list Windows version numbers. It's looking more and more likely that the next versions of Windows will be called, simply, Windows and Windows Server.
Slide 2, Slide 7, and Slide 13: The new Start menu has cascading menus on the left, very similar to Windows 7, and live tiles on the right. (I have no idea why Microsoft devs refer to this as a Mini Start menu.) There's a context-sensitive choice (probably right-click) for items on the left to let you Unpin an item on the Start menu or Pin to the taskbar. Slide 2 essentially shows Windows 7 items on the left, in English, while Slide 7 shows a long text-only list of Metro apps, which appears to be the All Apps list. One of the items in Slide 7 appears to be in Cyrillic (?), while several items in Slide 13 are in German. Slide 7 also has a Remind Me app that may or may not link into Cortana.
In Slide 8, the machine running Windows Technical Preview reports that it has 1GB of memory -- slim pickings.
In Slides 9, Slide 10, and Slide 19, the Virtual Desktop capability (which has been built into every version of Windows since XP) looks a lot like Dexpot, and not even a little bit like Microsoft's own Sysinternals Desktops. Strangely, there seems to be a fixed limit of four virtual desktops, a la Sysinternals, rather than a much larger number, as is the case with Dexpot.
Slide 12 shows an old version of Internet Explorer, 11.0.8. The current version of IE is 11.0.9 (or later). Everyone and their brother expects the next version of Windows to ship with IE12, but it's not in this build -- and quite probably won't ship with the Technical Preview.
Slide 17 shows the current Windows version number as 6.4.9834. That's consistent with Windows 8 (6.2.9200), Windows 8.1 (6.3.9200), and Windows 8.1 Update 1 (6.3.9600). Don't try to read too much into the version number -- it's constrained by compatibility checks, and a jump to 7.0 isn't in the cards. As an aside, I can't help but wonder what font is being used in the Command Prompt.
Slide 21 has an obscure Windows Feature box checked, called EdgeCP Model for Config 1.5. Thurrott guesses it's related to the new placement of Charms, which is as good a guess as any I've seen.
Where is Cortana, you ask? Nowhere obvious, unless it's behind the Remind Me app in Slide 13 -- or possibly somehow associated with the the Search box on the Start menu.
Let's not forget that three weeks ago, Wzor predicted a leak of the Windows 9 preview after Sept. 15, based primarily on his extrapolation of the release of the Technical Preview to Microsoft's partners. It looks like he's close.
When the leak hits, we'll be there.
This story, "Leaked Windows screenshots look legit -- and hold some surprises," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.