Friday, January 26, 2007

Windows Vista: Is It Time For An Upgrade Or Not?

5 days. That is all that is left of the five years that have passed since Windows XP was launched and since Microsoft announced that it would start work on Windows Vista (still named Longhorn at the time).

Actually, six years, because the OS we all know as Windows Vista was talked about for the first time in 2001. All this is history though and come Jan. 30, Windows Vista will set out on its quest to conquer customers. Is Windows Vista capable though of becoming Windows XP’s rightful successor?

From one point of view, Microsoft resembles Metallica (I hope fans of neither entity are bothered by the comparison). Both Microsoft and Metallica have been at the center of impassioned controversies and still are. Both Microsoft and Metallica are capable of being brilliant, even on a bad day. But neither Microsoft nor Metallica are able to generate the same enthusiasm they did seven years ago. They have reached a level where even if they function by way of habit they still produce hundreds of millions of dollars. Unfortunately, neither Microsoft nor Metallica can surprise anybody any longer.

At a first look, Windows Vista is superior to Windows XP from all points of view. Vista customers can actually expect several thousand new functions, Microsoft claims. Most of them are hidden underneath the hood, so to speak. One eye-catching element is the new graphical interface, dubbed Aero. It is remarkable first for its semi- transparent windows. Open several windows at once, and you can still see which other folders and documents are open beneath them. This is not exactly trailblazing in the world of operating systems, though. Transparent windows are also available in Apple's Mac OS X and with various Linux versions.

Microsoft went one step further, however, with its Flip 3D function. This positions all opened windows one behind another, slightly offset. Switching between the individual windows is somewhat easier than with XP, because the windows can be paged through using the scroll wheel, for example.

The desktop search is certain to be a major convenience. It finds objects not just based on folder or file names, but based on the contents of a document itself. Typing "Lara" into the search filter, for example, will pull up all e-mail messages and Word documents containing the word "Lara." The searching is launched as soon as the first letter is typed in.

The Windows Photo Gallery may bring joy to anyone with a large collection of digital photos on the computer. The software imports photos from a camera or scanner onto the PC, and also offers simple photo editing tools.

The Sidebar is intended to provide a quick overview. It is a collection of little programs that - presuming an internet connection is available - retrieve specific information in real time. That can be weather reports, stock quotes or sports scores, for example. These programs, known as widgets, are available for free download from Microsoft. But, according to Microsoft, the most important aspect of Windows Vista is one that is not perceived at first glance: the security has been greatly improved. Which remains to be seen and tested, but until then, we’ll take their word for it.

Vista comes with Internet Explorer 7, Windows Media Player 11 and the anti spyware software Windows Defender.

And we’re still a long way off from finishing the list, but which of the facilities mentioned above makes you jump for joy and run into the first store so that you can order Windows Vista?

How many things can you do only with or because Windows Vista and you can’t do with Windows XP and its third party applications? Not too many, at least in my opinion.

Two years ago, Windows Vista would have been a revolution. Now, it’s more of a hyperbolic finale to a prolonged agony.

Indisputably, Windows Vista will have its fans, who can’t wait to have the OS and install it on their PCs, indifferent to the fact that they need 2 GB of RAM and 256 MB RAM video.

In the end, Windows runs on 90 per cent of the world’s PCs, so Windows Vista’s destiny cannot be disastrous. Is this enough for Microsoft though? Not at all! In acerbic competition with Google and Apple, Microsoft needs Windows Vista to be “a bigger bang” and not just another Windows XP with another look. Those using Windows will certainly, within a couple of years, migrate slowly and irrevocably towards Windows Vista, because XP will become old-fashioned and Microsoft will not be willing to keep it alive forever.

Microsoft played it right this time with Windows Vista, even if it’s late by five years. The difference, considerable, between what Windows Vista promised to be and it actually is, puts extraordinary pressure on Microsoft’s following release, Windows Vienna, which has to be truly outstanding.

Windows Vienna, or whatever Microsoft eventually decides to name it, will have to be everything Vista is not at the moment, an OS that redefines the way in which we interact with our PC. Will Microsoft manage to do that?