It’s hard to believe that the news hasn’t made it over to this corner of the blogosphere, but let it be known: Windows Vista has been officially released as of Tuesday, January 30. From what I here and see, Vista is the biggest and baddest Microsoft ever put churned out, with millions of lines of code. There are a number of new features and improvements in Windows Vista, some purely fluff in many people’s opinions, and some deep under the hood.
Slightly unrelated, but worth mentioning:
How much more astonishing, then, is what Microsoft has accomplished. Apple had it easy: it kept its PC box closed, maintaining control over the hardware so it would perfectly suit its software. But Microsoft faced hundreds of thousands of boards, drives and chips like those I had spread out before me a few weeks ago, all of differing technological vintages, made by hundreds of companies with wildly different goals. Microsoft has taken these objects, along with the many thousands of PC programs now sold, and tried to create a system that would overlook their dizzying differences, bind them to a coherent vision and force them, in all their variety, to leave techne behind for the uncharted possibilities of magic.
Vista unlocks a new user interface, officially dubbed Aero Glass, which showcases of the power of your graphics hardware with transparent window frames and title bars and other special effects. In PC World’s feature article from the January 2007 issue, the author says a lot about how eye candy makes his day. Readers wrote back arguing against that, saying that a nice look isn’t the only thing that he should be proud of.
A number of new applications are included in Vista. They somewhat mimic Mac OS X with the new photo organization tool, a DVD-authoring program, and a calendaring app. Unfortunately for some, the Vista version of WordPad has dropped support for the Microsoft Word format, most probably in a push for users to but the new Office 2007. Most of the new apps are crude but effective for novice to intermediate PC users.
Aside from Aero, the desktop in general has gotten a few enhancements. The new Sidebar functionality is similar to OS X Widgets. The Sidebar gadgets can place hooks into the OS, providing system-level information to the user. Also, upon mousing over a taskbar button, the user is shown a small preview of the window’s contents, and can even display live content. Last in my (non-fully inclusive) list of features is Flip 3D, a replacement for the Windows + Tab keystroke that allows the user to switch windows in style. It shows the windows in a slanted stack.
Once you get past the surface, there are some under the hood (in one case, more over the hood than under) improvements in the areas of security and performance. The new user Account Control nags at the user for even seemingly non-administrative tasks, but helps protect the user from attacks and their own mistakes. Vista includes Internet Explorer 7, which is also available for Windows XP, and includes some of the much wanted features from today’s other browsers (like tabs and feed-reading capabilities). Also up are new graphics and programming frameworks for building richer applications and games.
Most of the notable enhancements that Windows Vista shows at this point are more eye candy than useful additions. However, as time goes on (and hardware compatibility rises), more of the monstrosity’s features will be put to use, giving users more reasons to enjoy the new OS. However, if you feel that windows XP is sufficient, stick with it, and wait for your next computer to get Vista.