John Connor stumbles into Windows development lab?

We all know product placement in science-fiction television shows can sometimes get out of hand. But today’s episode of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” has left me puzzled over what might have been a placement for Windows Vista. I say “might have been” because it is definitely not the Windows Vista we’ve all seen and some love to hate. It was like if they shot the scene inside Microsoft’s Windows development labs. I didn’t know John Connor was such a beta addict.

Rafael Rivera has put a gallery of high-definition screencaps, here are some of the most interesting ones in order they appear in the episode. For those of you playing at home, it begins at about 15min43sec and lasts about 90 seconds.


Without giving too much away, John Connor (lead character from the Terminator franchise) is walking into a computer store inside a shopping mall, having just time traveled from 1999 to 2007. Fortunately for John, he missed the release of Windows Millennium Edition. Note how Solitaire is clearly the best way to test out a computer before you purchase it. Media Center running on the PC on the top shelf.


John sees Windows Vista for the first time, falls in love. Woman with “1337” bag in the background.


Having time traveled also means John missed the introduction of the Apple iPod, AppleTV and new MacBooks. But like the loyal Microsoft fanboy he is, he doesn’t pay much attention to them.


John starts playing with Dell laptop, which happens to be connected to the huge LCD TV behind him.


John plays with his first Sidebar gadget, which happens to be a system performance multi-monitor of some sort displaying eight graphs. Note how the Sidebar has a white translucent background with a border (instead of the black fade in Vista RTM). The other gadgets from top to bottom include a hard drive monitor, the default CPU meter, a prototype Windows Media Player gadget from 2005, a chess piece and a quick launch tile.


Next he clicks on the Chess icon and a Chess game application fades in from the right. It looks very different to the one in Windows Vista – darker shadows, more realistic chess pieces and board and it also has a space background with stars and galaxies.


Somehow then John opens the control panel, or if you can still call it that. The window is filled with all the icons from the Vista classic control panel but without text labels. The background is translucent with a black overlay. Norton LiveUpdate icon also makes a cameo appearance.


John then discovers a search box with an Explorer style back and forward button. The default search engine is Watch out Google, the French are coming.


Naturally John starts searching about his past and finds articles about his “death”. What appears to be a browser window appears in the background. It shows only a back and forward button, an address bar and a standard toolbar.


Shortly after a sales person disturb John and tells him that he was showing everyone what he was looking at on the big screen. Offers to help him clear the browser history. Somehow she opens a menu for Internet Explorer in the taskbar, which seems to have some of the options you would find inside the application’s toolbar.


In the dialog that opens, she clicks on “Clear History”. Note how the buttons are styled like Windows XP buttons, even though this is inside Windows Vista with the glass frame and Aurora background. Scene ends.

Whilst it is true custom operating systems in TV shows and movies are nothing more than just optimizing what appears on screen so viewers can follow along more easily, but this seems a little more elaborate than most. I mean that Windows Media Player gadget was never released to the public, so how did that get there? I can’t help thinking Microsoft knew about this production either through licensing or a product placement deal, in which case, what is this?

36 insightful thoughts

  1. I don’t see any product placement of any kind. Just kidding. “…But like the loyal Microsoft fanboy he is, he doesn’t pay much attention to them.” Nice Touch.

  2. “Fortunately for John, he missed the release of Windows Millennium Edition”. Don’t we all wish we could’ve missed that! 😀

    1. I’ll take ME over Vista any day.

      I’ve actually didn’t have any problems with ME. It seemed identical to Win 98 SE, which also worked fine.

      XP x32 was great once you switched from 1024×768 to 1600×1200 and disabled I.E. XP x64 had lousy 32-bit support and lousy 64-bit support. My only complaint with XP x32, which I still use on all my machines, is that it does only 3.5 GB of system memory instead of a full 4 GB. Stupid MS, 2^32 = 4.2 billion.

      The one and only good thing about Win 2003 server x32 was that it did 6 GB of system ram in a 32-bit memory model, separating kernal and app memory and limiting each to 4 GB. They should have applied that patch to Windows XP 32. Imaging 4 GB for apps and 2 GB for Windows. More than you need.

  3. I unfortunately missed to watch Bill Gates last keynote at CES 2008 last week. Is there any possible way to download the complete keynote in high quality somewhere? The stream provided by Microsoft is now only available in low, absolutely too low quality. Thanks for help!

  4. Regarding Sidebar, you can change it’s appearance with Windows Sidebar Styler:

    I think I also saw a recreation of the WMP Gadget up on Windows Live Gallery.

    I’m also noticing how the Address Bar in Windows Explorer doesn’t seem to stretch all the way across to the Search box and how the menu bar seems to be spaced- well, far apart.

    There’s alot more inconsistencies but it’s still good product placement for Vista.

  5. I guess it’s all a mockup. Why does the chess game has a search box? Or why aren’t the transparent window borders blurry? So it may not be an official product placement. They would show Flip 3D for 5 minutes, if there was a deal 😉

  6. That Media Player gadget is availible for download on the gadget browser site or whatever you should call it, and ill assume the rest of the gadgets are as well.

  7. call me crazy but that looks like Longhorn with a Vista-heavy look.
    in Longhorn, applications were hosted in Explorer windows. that could explain why Chess appears to be in an Explorer window, and why the address bar doesn’t extend all the way across to meet the search box. and also why that stand-alone search tool (for looks like another Explorer window.

    and before you go all crazy monkey on me about the lack of oversized title bar, you could change the size of the toolbar buttons for Explorer and have it look a lot like Vista does today, except there would be text on the title bar.

  8. Alex,

    The “real” Media Player gadget that Long is referring to has not been released (and never will). It was developed back during the older Sidebar days, today it remains completely incompatible.

    That said, some enthusiasts have built a pretty good replica, minus the snazzy animations (due to Sidebar limitations). I believe this is what you see for download.

  9. Did anyone notice that the address of the place John was visiting was 1337? You can see it in reverse as he leaves the building.

  10. Yep, it’s on the shirts of some people in the store as well as a bag earlier in the sequence. I find it amusing yet sad at the same time…

  11. Some computer store. The first picture looks more like an office-type setting. And the 3rd picture, has a Dell monitor sitting on a shelf, with no obvious way to interact with it – dumb.

    And as for the other stuff, it’s just so non-realistic. This has to be the most disorganized store out there.

    If it’s product placement, it’s not a good one. It’s not showing the ‘real’ actual product, and the setting and reasoning behind the guy’s action is weak.

  12. Does anybody notice that in the first picture, their is a woman using a Mac and playing Solitaire ?!!

    The whole scene to me doesn’t make sence, Why Microsoft show-off a Pre-RTM build of Vista while the RTM do exist ?! Prove: Apple TV is there!

    It doesn’t seem to me as an AD because according to Microsoft “Silly” WOW Ads, they should use Flip 3D 😉

  13. QUOTE [it is an early alpha build of Windows 7. That would explain almost everything.]

    Couldn’t be, everything was working 😀

  14. First, isn’t watching “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” like betraying the spirit of “Terminator” and “T:2”?
    Second, that black “Internet Explorer” taskbar right mouse click looks great.
    Thirdly… “Watch out Google, the French are coming.” lol!

    1. > isn’t watching “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” like betraying the spirit of “Terminator” and “T:2″?

      No, it’s honoring the spirit of T1 and T2 while betraying the spirit of T3 and T4, which is ok in my opinion. I actually like the series even more than T1 and T2. It was that good.

      How can that crappy remake of BattleStar Galactica get so many seasons and TSCC only gets two half seasons? Must be a Sith plot.

  15. I can’t officially say anything, but it sure looks one hell of a lot like the Windows 7 build I was debugging the other day, except slightly more polished…

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  17. Did everyone forget that they’re in a totally new timeline now? Sarah hasn’t died from cancer yet and neither she or John existed for the time period of their jump so who knows what could’ve changed. Maybe they’re showing a weird version of Windows because in some strange way them not being there changed the timeline enough to have affected Windows.

    John Connor caused the downfall of WPF in the Windows Vista Sidebar! It all makes sense now! 🙂

  18. Is that our Windows Media Player gadget? It looks so dark. If it is ours and you’re wondering how its on there, some one stole our artwork off our site and released it. Its on Windows Live.

  19. Notice an iMac behind the laptop. And the gadget is the multi-meter CPU monitor gadget. And some icons in Control Panel have a white bachground behind ’em.

  20. Looks much better than their current mobile interface. Similar features to the Google mobile app with a couple extra features. Sill not too impressed with the search results at Bing. Mobile apps are becoming more and more important. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in web traffic from mobile devices searching on Google. Bing is taking a step in the right direction with this new mobile application.

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