Two interesting but uncorroborated looks at future Windows versions had the rumor mills working overtime this weekend. (Thanks to Eric Annal and Jasdev Dhaliwal for being the first readers to tip me off about these controversies.) The first report is an "official" Microsoft UK magazine that claims the company will release Windows XP Second Edition (SE) in early 2003. The second report is a supposed look at the next major Windows version (code-named Longhorn) and its new Start menu replacement. Are these reports genuine?

The XP SE story appears in "Microsoft Windows XP--The Official Magazine," which the UK's Future Publishing produces. Dated June 2002, the issue describes XP Service Pack (SP1), a follow-up called XP SE, and the differences between the two releases. "Essentially XP SP1 is a free collection of enhancements and patches for Windows XP," the story reports. "Windows XP SE is a bigger upgrade--including \[Internet Explorer\] IE 7 and DirectX 9--which you will have to pay for if you want it. When can I get them? Windows XP SP1 is out this summer...Windows XP SE is due \[in\] early 2003."

Previous queries to Microsoft about XP SE (I first speculated about the existence of this product in January on the SuperSite for Windows) were inconclusive; the company has disavowed knowledge of any such product. However, Microsoft has released yearly Windows desktop upgrades for several years, and because Longhorn is now scheduled for 2004, the company will need a product to fill the void in 2003, and XP SE could be that product. I'm still waiting for the company to comment about the magazine article.

The second Windows controversy revolves around a video that purports to show the interface for the Longhorn "shelf," which will replace the Start menu. Microsoft first publicly demonstrated the shelf last summer at the company's annual Financial Analysts Meeting, where executive Steven Guggenheimer explained how future MSN services would be able to integrate more easily with the new Windows UI. "So from the Windows perspective, I know this will be an open bar where anybody can plug in," Guggenheimer said at the time.

The video shows a Windows-like desktop in Classic mode, with a wide gray bar running up the side. The bar is divided into sections, such as "task shelf," "common tasks," and "my email," and it's definitely fake. However, the video's creators did a decent job using the few available bits of information to show the type of functionality that Microsoft might include in the next Windows version's UI. But if you're excited about seeing Longhorn in action, you need to wait: Microsoft told me that the Longhorn beta won't start until this fall, after the XP SP1 beta is completed. Look for more information about this purported Longhorn video on the SuperSite for Windows later this week.