It still builds on the Metro foundation but adds animation and transparency.
After reports last year that Microsoft was going to revise and update the design language used for Windows applications, some screenshots have leaked to MSPoweruser giving an indication of how the appearance is going to change.
Windows 10 presently uses a design language known as MDL2 (Microsoft Design Language 2), which is an evolved version of the Metro design first introduced with Windows Phone 7. Both Metro and MDL2 put an emphasis on clean lines, simple geometric shapes, attractive typography, photographic imagery, and minimal use of ornamentation. Both heavily borrow from responsive Web design concepts. Google's Material design language builds on similar themes, adding transitions and animations to better show how pieces of information are related.
The new Microsoft look is named Neon. It continues the evolution of Metro—it retains the emphasis on clean text and a generally flat appearance but adds certain elements of translucency (which the company is calling "acrylic") and greater use of animation and movement. Additional new elements are "Conscious UI," wherein an acrylic element might change depending on what's behind the current app, and "Connected Animations." The current preview of the Groove Music app, available to users of Windows Insider builds, already includes Connected Animations. Headers and pictures shrink as you scroll down the list of songs. As with Metro before it, much of this is already familiar and commonplace in Web design.
The similarities to Web design are no accident; Web developers have to handle a range of resolutions and device form factors, and they have come up with a number of design approaches to adapt to everything from smartphones to 30-inch monitors. With Neon, Microsoft is setting its sights further still, as the company starts building apps for virtual and augmented reality environments.
Neon is still some way off. While some apps such as Groove Music might be ahead of the curve, the major elements aren't expected to come to the operating system until the release codenamed Redstone 3. This is expected to come some time later this year, after the Creators Update (codenamed Redstone 2).
Traditionally, Microsoft has struggled with adoption of its design concepts. Over the years, the company has produced many design guides and interface concepts, only for those guidelines to be studiously ignored by first- and third-party developers alike. This was particularly acute with Windows 8; the company implored developers to produce Metro apps, only to steadfastly refuse to develop any significant applications itself. First-party applications have an important role in showing developers and designers best practices when designing their interfaces—Office, for example, has long served as a model that other software mimics—but this kind of guidance was largely absent for Metro.
For Neon to be a success and for Windows applications to start looking and feeling as if they belong and work together, Microsoft will need to do a much better job of both following the rules and ensuring that they work for a wide range of applications than it has done before.