Introduction

It's not very often that we have a chance to take a look at a new Windows operating system here at AnandTech. Not including the release of Windows XP x64 (the 64-bit version of windows) last year, Microsoft's premier operating system for workstation and home computer use has been Windows XP for nearly 5 years; that's an unprecedented period of time from Microsoft. However, that quiet period is about to come to a close early next year, as Microsoft begins to ramp up for the release of the next version of Windows: Windows Vista.

While Microsoft has been showing off Vista to various beta testers and developers for well over a year, including the first beta version released last July, it has only been since late May when Microsoft released Vista Beta 2 at WinHEC that a version has been available that is functional enough for testing. With the second beta, Microsoft has finally seen fit to release Vista to a wider audience of journalists and (for the first time) consumers, giving everyone a chance to see what is in store when Microsoft releases the final version of Vista next year. As the Vista customer preview version has just been released, we felt it was finally time for us to sit down and mingle with Vista and provide an official preview. We still have some reservations about the operating system, but we'll hold off on any final conclusions until Microsoft actually starts shipping Vista. In the mean time, Microsoft has managed to keep us intrigued with details of their OS that will replace the venerable XP.

For some time now, Microsoft has been in an interesting position of what to do after Windows XP. While Microsoft has had clear goals on what they've needed to deliver for each previous version of Windows, this hasn't been the case for Vista, which is part of the reason that it has taken so long for them to finish developing it. To put things in perspective, Windows 95 brought numerous new features including native 32-bit applications, an improved file system, a functional level of multitasking ability, and most importantly an immensely redefined user interface that made Windows much easier to use. Microsoft was able to follow that up with Windows 98, which added usable USB and AGP support, bringing Plug N Play to external devices and enabling the use of the next generation of graphics accelerators. Finally, with Windows XP, Microsoft ditched the DOS base of Windows and moved home users over to the NT kernel, vastly improving the stability and multitasking abilities of Windows to the level that business users had been enjoying for some time (courtesy of Windows NT/2000).

Herein lies the problem Microsoft has been facing since XP launched: what can you add to a (generally) stable OS that doesn't absolutely need any new hardware support or a user interface overhaul? Microsoft finally believes they have an answer to that problem, and today we'll be taking a look at what Microsoft will be bringing to your computers next year with the launch of Windows Vista. Perhaps for the first time since Windows first started shipping, Microsoft is in a position where they aren't shipping an OS where new technologies will carry it and the OS is just an enabler; instead with Vista the OS itself is the star.

The Many Faces of Windows
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  • Pirks - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Out of the box, Vista's firewall is a full-featured firewall that can block inbound and outbound connections. Tiger's firewall can't do the latter
    Excuse me, what? How about this then: http://www.macworld.com/2006/05/reviews/osxfirewal...">http://www.macworld.com/2006/05/reviews/osxfirewal...

    "The emphasis is on incoming. As it ships from Apple, the firewall does not monitor traffic that may be originating from your own computer. If your Mac gets possessed by a malware application that then attempts to attack or infect other computers via your Internet connection (a not-uncommon trick), OS X’s firewall won’t, by default, pay any attention. And, there’s no way to change this default setting from your System Preferences. To force the firewall to monitor outbound traffic, you must use Terminal’s command-line interface."

    See - IT CAN monitor and block outbound traffic, contrary to what you say. It's just a matter of configuring it properly. You should at least correct your article and stop saying OSX ipfw CAN'T track outbound connections. You can say this: it's SET UP not to monitor outbound connections BY DEFAULT but anyone can CONFIGURE it to monitor outbound connections either through third party GUI like Flying Buttress or via command line. Then you won't look like a liar to any Mac guy who cares to read your review.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    I see your point, but I believe there's nothing in the article that needs changing. Tiger's firewall can't block outbound connections without having to drop to the terminal to muck with IPFW, I do not classify that as an ability any more than I classify Vista x64 as being amateur driver programmer friendly(since you need to drop to the terminal to turn off the x64 integrity check). When a version of Mac OS X ships with a proper GUI for controlling outbound firewalling(as is the Apple way), then it will be capable by a reasonable definition. Right now it's nothing more than a quirk that results from using the BSD base. Reply
  • Pirks - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    quote:

    When a version of Mac OS X ships with a proper GUI for controlling outbound firewalling(as is the Apple way), then it will be capable by a reasonable definition.
    Excellent point! So, when (and if) Mac OS X will see its share of virii and malware, THEN Apple will incorporate outbound connection settings in OS X GUI - right now it's not needed by Mac users, and the rare exceptions are easily treated with third party apps and command line.

    OK, got your point, agreed, issue closed. Thanks :)
    Reply
  • bjtags - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Vista x64
    I have been pounding on it for 4 days never crash or even farted once!!!
    Have all HalfLife 2 and CS running Just Great!!!
    Had at one time 10 IE windows open, MediaPlayer, Steam updating, download driver,
    updating windows drivers, and 3 folder explorer windows open, and tranfering
    4gig movie to HD!!!

    Still ran fine... I do have AMD 4800 x2 with 2gigs...
    Reply
  • Poser - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Two questions:

    1. What's the ship date for Vista supposed to be? Q4 of 2006?
    2. I seem to remember that speech recognition would be included and integrated with Vista. Is it considered too much of a niche toy to even mention, not considered to be part of the OS, or am I just plain wrong about it's inclusion?

    It was a extremely well written article. Very nice job.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    1. Expected completion is Q4 with some business customers getting access to the final version at that time. It won't be released to the public until 2007 however.

    2. You're right, speech recognition is included. You're also right in that given the amount of stuff we had to cover in one article it was too much of a niche; voice recognition so far is still too immature to replace typing.
    Reply
  • ashay - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    "Dogfooding" is when a company uses their own new product (not necessarily beta) for internal use.(maybe even in critical production systems).

    Term comes from "eat your own dog-food". Meaning if you're a dog food maker, the CEO and execs eat the stuff. If they like it they dogs hopefully will.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eat_one%27s_own_dog_f...">Wikipedia link
    Reply
  • fishbits - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Yes, I know it's still beta, we'll see. The UAC and signed drivers schemes sound like they'll be flops right out of the gate. Average user will quickly realize he can't install or use anything until he adopts a "just click 'Yes'" attitude, which will reward him with a functioning device/running program. I've lost count of how many drivers I've installed under XP that were for name-brand devices, yet didn't have the official seal of approval on them. Again, get trained to "just click 'Yes'" in order to be able to do anything useful. Without better information given to the user at this decision point, all the scheme does is add a few mouse-clicks and no security. Like when you install a program and your security suite gives a "helpful" warning like "INeedToRun.exe is trying to access feccflm.dll ... no recommendation."

    As expected, it looks like the productivity gains of GPU-acceleration were immediately swallowed up by GUI overhead. Whee! "The users can solve this through future hardware upgrades." Gotcha. For what it's worth, the gadgets/widgets look needlessly large and ugly, especially for simply displaying things like time, cpu temp/usage. Then it sounds like we're going to have resource-hungry programs getting starved because of GPU sharing, or will have an arms-race of workarounds to get their hands on the power they think they need.

    Ah well, I've got to move to 64-bit for RAM purposes relatively soon. Think I'll wait a year or two after Vista 64 to let it get stable, faster, and better supported. Then hopefully the programs I'll need to upgrade can be purchased along the lines of a normal upgrade cycle. Games I'm actually not as worried about, as I expect XP/DX9 support to continue for a decent bit and will retain an XP box and install Vista on a brand new one when the time comes.
    Reply
  • shamgar03 - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    I really hope that will mean for BETTER GPU performance not worse. I would really just like to be able to boot into a game only environment where you have something like a grub interface to pick games and it only loads the needed stuff for the game. Reply
  • darkdemyze - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    beta implies "still in developement". chances are very high performance will see an increase by the time of release. I agree with your seconds statement though. Reply

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