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Mark Shuttleworth posted a suggestion he got from Pablo Quirós for the free space on the top right window corner (now that the button(s) will be placed on the left side of the Metacity), on the Ayatana mailing list.

The proposal is a new UI element for the windows in Ubuntu called Esfera which should be placed in the free space on the top-right of the windows. The button will basically support gestures which you can perform on that window, like a joystick.

Mark attached a PDF with the exact explanation of this Esfera. Here is a small excerpt:

Esfera (sphere in Spanish) is a circular spherical button, about 3 times wider than the normal ones, which offers a variety of possibilities to the user. Esfera represents the window. Any action performed with Esfera is an action that affects the whole window where it is placed.

It's draggable, and it responds to different movements performed by the user with it. This are some of the possibilities I see:

Easy-to-implement actions

Moved to the top: the window is maximized. User clicks on Esfera, moves it a little bit to the top, and the window is maximized even before he releases the button. If he changes his mind, he moves it down without releasing the Esfera, and it gets back to the previous unmaximized state.

Moved to the bottom: the window is minimized; same behavior than maximizing, but the user moves Esfera down to perform it.

Moved right: the window is moved to the workspace on the right.

Moved left: the window is moved to the workspace on the left.

Moved performing an “X”: the window is closed. User clicks on esfera, moves it to make an “X”, and the window becomes transparent to show that it's about to be closed. If he releases Esfera, the application is closed. If he changes his mind, he moves Esfera back and the window gets opaque
again; then, if he releases Esfera, the window will stay opened.

Clicked: the user sees a menu, in which he can choose between the different options of Esfera: close, minimise, maximise, switch workspace... this menu is thoght to make easier the life of new users

You can download the PDF from HERE and read the full specs of Esfera.

Pablo's idea is that the normal minimize/maximize/close buttons will stick around for a while but should be completely removed at some point. David Sigel had an almost identical idea, except that he wanted to keep the close button on the top left corner (but remove the minimize/maximize buttons).

The idea is that, at first, there is a coexistence of Esfera with the maximize-minimize-close buttons to test the user experience with it, but in the middle term, if it works, it would replace them as this actions can be done with Esfera.

Replace Close, Min, Max buttons with just Close and "other". Dragging the "other" button slightly to the right and releasing maximizes the window to full the right half of the screen ("maximize right").

Basically all this is not just for decluttering the window but mostly for usability. Just because people are used with the minimize / maximize / close buttons doesn't mean they were a great way to control a window, but that's how people got used to it.

The button is there so new users are not very confused (although that's going to be a bit tough since they won't find the regular buttons there) but this could be done with only the gestures, without an actual button at all.

What's the point on changing something that works for a different concept? Innovation and usability. If we do it well, we'll be able to do lots of things with a single button, which brings simplicity and a faster usage - it's far easier to reach a big, single button, than three little buttons, and we'll offer more options to the user. And if we do it well, it will be quicker for him.

You can follow the whole discussion @ https://lists.launchpad.net/ayatana/