Connected Comment
















It’s official, the next version of Windows will be called Vista and according to the Microsoft marketing puff it is ‘connected, clear and confident’ and will ‘bring clarity to your world’, which is more than can be said for the way some Microsoft products are named. Until last week’s announcement Vista was known throughout the industry and beyond as Longhorn and despite the macho mid-western flavour it was generally liked, some even thought it might stick.


Early incarnations of Windows were known by version numbers, this lasted until Windows 3.1 when Microsoft unaccountably switched to release dates. Many believed this was a ruse to force PC owners into unwanted and unnecessary upgrades but the late arrival of ‘Memphis’ or Windows 98, halfway through 1998, proved somewhat embarrassing. Microsoft wisely decided to abandon date-sensitive names after Windows Millennium Edition (ME) and 2000 in favour of more esoteric titles and Project Whistler, in theory Windows 2004, became Windows ‘expert’ or XP.


The most recent name change may well be something Microsoft will come to regret and within hours of the announcement the wags had got to work on it. One early effort suggested that Vista might be an acronym for Window’s top five problems, namely Viruses, Infections, Spyware, Trojans and Adware. Vista, it transpires, is Latvian for chicken and should the software prove the least bit disruptive or malevolent there is endless potential for linking it with the Terminator robot’s favourite catchphrase, ‘Hasta la Vista baby’…


Companies already using the Vista name will be understandably irritated. These include, appropriately enough, a manufacturer of double-glazed windows, several items of computer hardware and software, a large telescope in Chile and a magazine for Hispanics. No doubt Microsoft’s deep pockets and small army of lawyers will see off any protests.


The first Beta release will be available to accredited developers and programmers within the next few day, the rest of us will have to wait until later in the year to see a preview of the fully formed version. Assuming that everything goes according to plan Vista will hit the shelves towards the end of 2006 but most of the key features are already known.


Two versions will be available for PCs with 32-bit processors and the new generation of 64-bit machines now coming on to the market, which Microsoft expects will become the norm during the operating system’s lifetime. 32-bit Vista should run on any mid-range XP computer with a fast processor and at least 512Mb of RAM but it is possible that some PCs may need a more sophisticated video card to take advantage of ‘Aero Glass’, Vista’s extended graphical display capabilities.   


A system-wide search facility does away with the rigid hierarchical filing system of current versions of Windows and users will be able to organise data and files using ‘virtual’ folders. Vista will also be the first outing for ‘Live’ icons, which displays the contents of a file or folder in icon form. There will be a new document and print management technology called Metro. This works in a similar manner to Adobe’s Portable Document Format (pdf), enabling documents to retain formatting and layout when opened or printed by Vista-compatible applications. Metro files can also be instantly compressed, encrypted and digitally watermarked. 


Connectivity has a high priority and Visa PCs will seamlessly communicate and synchronise with a wide range of devices, including other computers over cabled and wireless networks, PDAs, portable and tablet PCs, cellphones and newer types of display.


Needless to say security -- a perennial bugbear for Windows users -- is something Microsoft has pledged to get right this time and we're on a promise that Vista will be comparable with rival operating systems like Linux and Mac OS X. In addition to extra measures to defeat viruses, malware, phishing and hackers Vista PCs will encrypt the entire contents of the hard disc drive so that even if the PC is stolen the data stored on it should remain safe. A facility called User Account Protection (UAP) reduces the scope for users to tinker with the system and extra Administrator passwords will be needed before significant changes can be made to the way a Vista PC is configured.


According to the dictionary a vista is a distant view or prospect; Microsoft launch dates are indeed notoriously optimistic, nevertheless, when it eventually arrives Vista should be worth looking at…




Ó R. Maybury 2005 1606



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