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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  • Squidward - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Having beta tested Windows XP when it was released, I have to say that so far I'm not very impressed with Vista. Granted there is still quite some time before final release but even with RC1 of XP it was a rock solid stable OS that I used as my full time OS and never had any issues whatsoever (especially security cause no one was writing viruses and malware for it back then). Quite frankly I don't see how the beta 2 I've been looking at and the final polished out the door product is going to happen in 7 months for a Jan. launch. The real problem however lies in the fact that I know I will move up to Vista at some point, but not because it's a better OS than XP but that I'll be hindered by continuing to use an older operating system. I just haven't seen anything in it yet that made me go. "Now that's the kind of feature I've been needing!", and the few features that did make me feel that way were removed to be implemented 'at a later date'. Fancy graphical effects are nice and all, but they don't make an OS. As it stands in the betas the UAC feature is just a complete hinderance that to me seems to punish the end user because of security risks that are out there. The end user shouldn't get a pop up on every single application or item they open to be sure it's 'safe'. There are far better means of controlling permissions within an OS that would have made a lot more sense that what we have now with UAC. That being said, I believe in time and with Microsoft really listening to customer feedback they'll work out a lot of the kinks, but I won't consider purchasing Vista until they do... or force me to upgrade. :)


    Reply
  • Pirks - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Granted there is still quite some time before final release but even with RC1 of XP it was a rock solid stable OS that I used as my full time OS and never had any issues whatsoever
    Besides this thing being early beta, also keep in mind that it's not a cosmetic chaneg akin to upgrade from W2k to XP or from OSX 10.3 to 10.4 - this is a major OS overhaul not too far from migration from 9x to NT, of course early beta of such a grand release will be total crap (at least for many people, but some others seem to enjoy it a lot). So, comparing this early beta release to XP release candidate is indeed pretty stupid. I don't even expect Vista release to be 100% usable out of the box, ESPECIALLY x64 version - Vista 64 will take another year or two to mature, get drivers/apps ready and such. And you should also keep in mind that MS is in a big hurry to avoid Apple to chop its balls off - some more delay and you'll see Apple market share well over 10% which is pretty dangerous to MS if they wanna keep enjoying their desktop x86 OS monopoly status. Hence MS does stuff quickly, cuts off features and will probably release something buggy just to avoid serious threat from Apple. Expect something usable only after SP1 and give it at least a year - in a meantime read some rumours about Leopard and salivate a little - that'll keep you going ;-))
    quote:

    The real problem however lies in the fact that I know I will move up to Vista at some point, but not because it's a better OS than XP but that I'll be hindered by continuing to use an older operating system.
    Yet another nice point - you think MS will sit still and let Leopard to chew its (MS's) private parts with impunity? I doubt that - MS will very likely release those nice sweet WinFS and other toys there were promising for years and integrate them in the next Vista release (I hope Leopard or whatever Mr. Jobs is up to isn't going to eat that for lunch - 'cause WinFS is the last hope for MS, really - DX10 won't count, too small a market it seems). So, in two years or maybe earlier you'll get those new sexy features you want, I believe... well, Apple could probably beat MS's ass here again, which is even more likely judging how well Apple devs were performing so far, so maybe you won't be interested in Vista at all - OS scene moves very fast - bang bang and u'r dead :) Especially now when Ballmer replaced BG - I'm worried, I don't quite trust Ballmer and Ozzie and others - ol' Bill was da man, not sure Vista survives w/o him when his archrival Jobs is only started to accelerate before real takeoff (Leopard?), but we'll see, we'll see...
    quote:

    There are far better means of controlling permissions within an OS that would have made a lot more sense that what we have now with UAC
    Oh, interesting, tell stupid us what is this "far better means of controlling permissions within an OS" instead of annoying ugly UAC, this must be something revolutionary and ingenious - maybe MS will pay you big bucks for that, who knows ;-))
    Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    You tested RC1 of XP. Release Candidate 1.


    This is BETA 2 of Vista. Maybe when they release RC1 of Vista you can compare again.
    Reply
  • Frallan - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Well i found 1 thing to be more interesting then the rest: Gaming Perfomance!!

    That means that at least til the games I want to play are DX10 combined with the fact that DX10 games get better results im going to stax with my XP.

    Sorry M$
    /F
    Reply
  • Googer - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    There are so many versions and the feature sets will confuse most of us.

    Here is a screen shot from Paul Thurott's Win Super Site.

    http://pics.bbzzdd.com/users/Googer/Windows_Vista_...">Windows Vista Versions.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Keep in mind that that's an old chart. Small Business Edition no longer exists, and Professional is now Business Edition. Reply
  • Googer - Saturday, June 17, 2006 - link

    Thanks forthe update. Here is the now silghtly out of date chart but still has some usefull information.

    http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/winvista_edit...">http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/winvista_edit...
    Reply
  • slashbinslashbash - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Page 8, "regulated" should be "relegated"
    Also in the same sentence, "Superfetc.h" (which might not be a typo)

    A 14-page article with 2 minor problems.... The quality ratio here at AT just kills DailyTech.... please impose AT quality control on DailyTech!
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Fixed - DT runs a lot of short, quick articles, and unfortunately that means they get more typos and errors. Anyway, since they are a separate entity, there's not much we can do. Feel free to post and tell them, though, but remember they're looking at probably 10X as many press releases as we do. LOL Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    1) vista is perfectly capable of being a stable light weight desktop system (with some quirks) at the beta 2 stage ... but try to do anything fast or power hungry and you'd be better off sticking with xp until vista is released. right now, at beta 2, vista is a neat toy. don't try to use it for everything.

    2) after all the spit an polish dries, i will still prefer os x to vista

    3) final verdict? same as it ever was -- i'll be running vista for games and linux for programming. and since i've recently been bitten by the switch bug, os x for everything else.
    Reply

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