Microsoft Vista Speech Demo
Windows Vista is the name of a major version of Microsoft Windows, a proprietary graphical operating system used on personal computers, including home and business desktops, notebook computers, and media centers. Prior to the announcement of the Vista name on July 22, 2005, it was known by its codename Longhorn, after the Longhorn Saloon, a popular bar in Whistler, British Columbia. As of July 2006, Windows Vista is in beta testing; Microsoft has stated the scheduled release dates for Windows Vista are currently November 2006 for business editions, and January 2007 for consumer editions. These release dates come more than five years after the release of Windows XP, Microsoft's current consumer and business operating system, making it the longest time span between releases of Windows.
According to Microsoft, Windows Vista has hundreds of new features, such as an updated graphical user interface and visual style dubbed Windows Aero, improved searching features, new multimedia creation tools such as Windows DVD Maker, and completely redesigned networking, audio, print and display sub-systems. Microsoft claims that Vista also aims to increase the level of communication between machines on a home network using peer-to-peer technology, making it easier to share files, password settings, and digital media between computers and devices. For developers, Vista introduces version 3.0 of the .NET Framework, which aims to make it significantly easier for developers to write high-quality applications than with the traditional Windows API. High-end editions of Vista are expected to include Microsoft's Virtual PC, so that previous versions of Windows can be run simultaneously with Windows Vista on the same machine, with a view to running applications incompatible with Windows Vista.
Microsoft's primary stated goal with Vista, however, has been to improve the state of security in the Windows operating system. Amongst the many common criticisms of Windows XP, the most significant has been its commonly exploited security vulnerabilities, and an overall susceptibility to malware, viruses and buffer overflows. In light of this, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced in early 2002 a company-wide 'Trustworthy Computing initiative' which aims to incorporate security work into every aspect of software development at the company. Microsoft claimed it prioritized improving the security of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 above finishing Windows Vista, which has significantly delayed its completion.
Microsoft started work on their plans for "Longhorn" in May 2001, some months before the release of Windows XP. It was originally expected to ship sometime late in 2003 as a minor step between Windows XP and "Blackcomb" (now known as Windows "Vienna"). Gradually, "Longhorn" assimilated many of the important new features and technologies slated for "Blackcomb", resulting in the release date being pushed back a few times. Many of Microsoft's developers were also re-tasked with improving the security of Windows XP. Faced with ongoing delays and concerns about feature creep, Microsoft announced on August 27, 2004 that it was making significant changes. "Longhorn" development basically started afresh, building on the Windows Server 2003 codebase, and re-incorporating only the features that would be intended for an actual operating system release. Some previously announced features, such as WinFS and NGSCB, were dropped or postponed.
After "Longhorn" was named Windows Vista, an unprecedented beta-test program was started, which has involved hundreds of thousands of volunteers and companies. In September 2005, Microsoft started releasing regular Community Technology Previews (CTP) to beta testers. The first of these was build 5219, distributed among 2005 PDC attendees, and has been released to Microsoft Beta testers and MSDN subscribers. Subsequent CTPs have introduced most of the planned features for the final product, as well as a number of changes to the user interface, based in large part on feedback from beta testers.
Windows Vista was deemed feature-complete with the release of build 5308 CTP, released on February 22, 2006, and much of the remainder of work between that build and the final release of the product will focus on stability, performance, application and driver compatibility, and documentation. Windows Vista Beta 2 was released to testers on May 23, 2006 and to the general public on June 7, 2006 through Microsoft's Customer Preview Program, with the program running until the beginning of July. It was offered for free either via download from their web site or by ordering a DVD. Microsoft hints that there will be release candidates for Windows Vista by promising a Release Candidate 1 DVD kit when it becomes available for those who order the second beta's DVD.
Kevin Johnson, co-president of Microsoft's Platforms & Services Division, stated on July 28 that "At this point in time, there is no data or information that says we are not going to make the November business availability or the January consumer availability."
Windows Vista has a long list of new features, changes, and improvements. While a complete list has not been published by Microsoft yet, recent development builds of Windows Vista, Microsoft employee blogs, and published documentation have collectively identified most of the features that Microsoft intends to include when the product is released.
# Windows Aero: a re-designed user interface, named Windows Aero – an acronym for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open. The new interface is intended to be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing than previous Windows, including new transparencies, animations and eye candy.
# Windows Shell: The new Windows shell is significantly different from Windows XP, offering a new range of organization and search capabilities. The Start menu has changed as well; it no longer uses ever-expanding boxes when navigating through Programs. Even the word "Start" itself has been removed in favor of a blue Windows "Pearl". (Though not in the Customer Preview Beta 2) (Circular control buttons, or "pearls", are likely to appear in many other Windows Vista-era applications. A similar "pearl" is present in Office 2007.)
# Instant Search: significantly faster and more thorough search capabilities, similar to what is offered by Microsoft's Windows Desktop Search, Beagle, Copernic, and Apple Computer's Spotlight. Search boxes have been added to the Start menu, Windows Explorer, and several of the applications included with Vista.
# Windows Sidebar: A new panel on the right-hand side of the screen, similar to Apple Computer's Dashboard, where a user can place Desktop Gadgets, which are small applets designed for a specialized purpose (such as displaying the weather or sports scores). The gadgets can also be placed on other parts of the Desktop, if desired.
# Internet Explorer 7+, an upgrade of Microsoft's web browser, with support for tabbed browsing, RSS, a search box, a phishing filter, IDN with anti-spoofing technology and improved standards support. For added security, ActiveX controls are disabled by default. Also, Internet Explorer will operate in a "protected mode" sandbox which operates with lower permissions than the user, preventing it from accessing or modifying anything besides the Temporary Internet Files directory. Also, for better security, Internet Explorer is no longer integrated with the explorer shell (local files typed in IE are opened using the explorer shell and Web sites typed in the explorer shell are opened using IE).
# Windows Media Player 11, a major revamp of Microsoft's popular program for playing and organizing music and videos. New features in this version include word wheeling (or "search as you type"), a completely new and highly graphical interface for the media library, photos display and organization, and the ability to share music libraries over a network with other Vista machines, the Xbox 360, and other Media Center Extenders.
# Windows Firewall: Supports monitoring both incoming and outgoing traffic. It's also possible to create advanced packet filter rules.
# Windows Defender: Microsoft's Anti-spyware product has been incorporated into Windows, offering protection against spyware and other threats. Changes to various system configuration settings (such as new auto-starting applications) are blocked unless the user gives consent. The new version uses Windows Automatic Updates to receive definition updates, also works properly with standard user accounts, and has integration with IE so that downloads are scanned when they are downloaded, which reduces the risk of accidentally downloading malicious software.
# Backup and Restore: A new backup and restore application that gives users the ability to schedule periodic backups of files on their computer, as well as recovery from previous backups. Backups are incremental, storing only the changes each time, minimizing the disk usage. It also features CompletePC backup which backs up an entire computer as an image onto a hard disk or DVD. The CompletePC backup can automatically recreate a machine setup onto new hardware or hard disk in case of any hardware failures.
# Windows Mail: A replacement for Outlook Express that includes a completely replaced mail store that improves stability, and enables real-time search. A number of features from Outlook 2003 are also included, most notably junk mail filtering.
* Windows Update: Software and security updates have been simplified, now operating solely via a control panel instead of as a Web application. Mail's spam filter and Defender's definitions will also be automatically updated via Windows Update.
* Parental Controls control which websites, programs, and games each person can use and install.
* Windows SideShow: Enables the auxiliary displays on newer laptops or on supported Windows Mobile devices. It is meant to be used to display Device gadgets while the computer is on or off.
* Speech recognition is fully integrated into Vista, which can be "trained" to understand a user's voice, to activate commands in any Windows application, and to enable voice dictation.
* Many new fonts, including several designed especially for screen reading, and a new high-quality Japanese font. See Windows Vista typefaces. ClearType has also been enhanced.
* Games: Every game included with Windows has been rewritten to take advantage of Vista's new graphics capabilities. New games include Chess, Mahjong Titans and Purble Place. The Games section will also hold links and information to all games on the user's computer. One piece of information that will be shown is the game's ESRB rating.
* Windows Calendar is a new calendar and task application.
* Windows Photo Gallery, a photo and movie library management application. WPG can import from digital cameras, tag and rate individual items, adjust colors and exposure, create and display slideshows (with pan and fade effects), and burn slideshows to DVD.
* Windows DVD Maker, a companion program to Windows Movie Maker, which provides the ability to create video DVDs based on a user's content.
* Windows Meeting Space is the replacement for NetMeeting. Users can share applications (or their entire Desktop) with other users on the local network, or over the Internet using peer-to-peer technology.
* SuperFetch, which will speed up the loading of programs and windows by noting the common time of day you use certain programs, then loading the necessary binaries and files in RAM shortly before the set time, so that when you open the program at your usual time, the programs will load much quicker than they would otherwise. Optionally, SuperFetch can also be used in conjunction with ReadyBoost to boost system performance.
* ReadyBoost makes PCs running Windows Vista more responsive by using flash memory on a USB 2.0 drive, SD Card, Compact Flash, or other form of flash memory, in order to boost system performance. It does this by caching pages moved out of conventional RAM to the USB/Flash drive before falling back to the slower conventional hard drive. This is optional, and the choice to utilize this feature is presented to the user during Autostart, when the drive is first plugged in.
* ReadyDrive, enables Windows Vista PCs equipped with a hybrid drive to boot up faster, resume from hibernation in less time, and preserve battery power. Hybrid hard drives are a new type of hard disk that integrates non-volatile flash memory with a traditional hard drive.
* Touchscreen support will be included.
* Problem Reports and Solutions, a new control panel which allows users to see previously sent problems and any solutions or additional information that is available.
* Improved built-in Disk Defragmenter can be automatically scheduled to run
* Improved task manager is able to show the process command line, the file properties, the services status, and it manages a lot of new things.
* Improved task scheduler with a lot of new conditions and filters
* Improved Audio allows controlling system-wide volume or volume of individual audio devices and even individual applications separately
Windows Vista is intended to be a technology-based release, to provide a solid base to include advanced technologies, many of which will be related to how the system functions, and hence not readily visible to the user.
* Completely rearchitected audio, print, display and networking stacks.
* User Account Control is a new security technology that allows Windows to operate effectively as a "standard" user with fewer privileges. This was often a difficult thing to do in previous versions of Windows, because the previous "limited" user accounts proved too restrictive and incompatible with a large proportion of application software. When an action requiring administrative rights is requested, the user will first be prompted to confirm their action (or be asked for an administrator password if they are not themselves an administrator).
* Native IPv6 stack, which also works with IPv4, eliminating the need for dual-stack network architecture. Improved resistance to all known TCP/IP-based denial-of-service and other types of network attacks. Enable more modular components that can be dynamically inserted and removed. Reconfigure without having to restart the computer. Automatically senses the network environment and adjusts key performance settings, such as the TCP receive window
* A number of new security measures including BitLocker Drive Encryption
* Improved memory manager and processes scheduler. I/O has been enhanced with I/O asynchronous cancellation and I/O scheduling based on thread priority. Many kernel data structures and algorithms have been rewritten. A new improved Heap manager with better security and performances.
* System services are in a separated and isolated session. User processes are in another session.
* Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) to prevent Return-to-libc buffer overflow attacks.
* The new Kernel Transaction Manager enables atomic transaction operations across different types of objects, most significantly file system (Transactional NTFS) and Registry operations.
* Deadlock Detection Technology is a new technology that will include checking for a deadlock condition for Windows error reports.
While much of the focus of Vista's new capabilities will be centered on the new user interface, Microsoft is also adding a large number of new features to make a compelling case for businesses still running Windows NT, 2000, and XP desktops.
* The WIM image format is the cornerstone of Microsoft's new deployment and packaging system. WIM files, which contain an image of Windows Vista, can be maintained and patched without having to rebuild new images.
* Approximately 800 new Group Policy settings have been added, covering most aspects of the new features in the operating system, as well as significantly expanding the configurability of wireless networks, removable storage devices, and user desktop experience.
* Services for UNIX has been renamed "Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications", and is included with the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Vista. Network File System (NFS) client support is also included.
NET Framework 3.0, formerly WinFX, is a set of technologies that Microsoft is intending to make available for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, and are therefore not technologies exclusive to Vista, but rather developed in time for the Vista release. Allowing an easier introduction of these technologies to developers and end users may be a reason for backporting them.
Microsoft labels the new key technologies in this version of Windows as "The Pillars of Vista":
The Windows Presentation Foundation or WPF, formerly code-named Avalon: a new user interface subsystem and framework based on Direct3D (DirectX), and vector graphics, which will make use of 3D computer graphics hardware and Direct3D technologies. See Windows Graphics Foundation.
The Windows Communication Foundation or WCF, formerly code-named Indigo: a service-oriented messaging subsystem which will enable applications and systems to interoperate locally or remotely using web services.
The Windows Workflow Foundation or WF: was announced in August 2005, and allows task automation and integrated transactions using workflows.
There are also significant new development APIs in the core of the operating system, notably the inclusion of the .NET Framework, completely re-architected audio, networking, print, and video interfaces, major changes to the security infrastructure, improvements to the deployment and installation of applications ("ClickOnce" and Windows Installer 4.0), new device driver development model ("Windows Driver Foundation"), Transactional NTFS, and major updates to many core subsystems such as Winlogon and CAPI.
There are some issues for software developers using some of the graphics APIs in Vista. Games or programs which are built on Vista's version of Direct3D, 10, will not work on prior versions of Windows, as Direct3D 10 is not backwards-compatible with Direct3D 9. Also, according to a Microsoft Blog, there are two OpenGL paths under Vista. An application can use the default implementation, frozen at OpenGL version 1.4. An application can use an ICD as well, which comes in two flavors: legacy and Vista-compatible. A legacy ICD functions as specified above: the activation of one will turn off the desktop compositor. A Vista-compatible ICD, made by IHVs using a new internal API path provided by Microsoft, will be completely compatible with the desktop compositor. Given the statements made by the two primary OpenGL ICD vendors (ATi and nVidia), it would be reasonable to expect both to provide full Vista-compatible ICDs for Windows Vista."
Some notable Windows XP features and components have been replaced or removed in Windows Vista. Perhaps the most significant of these is the removal of Windows Messenger and MSN Explorer, and the replacement of NetMeeting with Windows Meeting Space. Windows Vista also does not include the Windows XP "Luna" visual theme. The "Hardware profiles" startup feature has been removed as well, along with support for older motherboard technologies like the EISA bus and APM.
WinFS was the codename for a planned relational database layer built on top of NTFS, and was loosely based on SQL Server 2005. In August 2004, Microsoft announced that WinFS would not be included in Windows Vista. This was due to time constraints in developing the technology. Microsoft has been working on this technology since the mid 1990s. For a time, Microsoft had said that WinFS would be released separately of Vista, but on June 23, 2006, Microsoft announced that they decided to integrate some of the developed features into the next versions of ADO.NET and SQL Server, effectively cancelling the separate WinFS project.
# Due to scheduling issues, the Windows PowerShell, code-named Monad, will not be included in Windows Vista. However, Microsoft has announced that it will be available as a separate download in the fourth quarter of 2006. A release candidate is currently available for download.
# Owing to significant difficulties in getting third-party developers to support the system (particularly due to the lack of support for writing for the Trusted Operating Root using .NET managed code), the Next-Generation Secure Computing Base architecture was abandoned for Windows Vista. Some aspects of the NGSCB initiative, such as support for Trusted Platform Module chips, are still present, though its role is now limited to being a provider of cryptographic functions which will support BitLocker Drive Encryption. The NGSCB initiative itself has been renamed system integrity team , and they're currently working on bitlocker.
# Support for Intel's Extensible Firmware Interface was originally slated to be included with Vista, but has been removed due to what Microsoft has described as a lack of support on desktop computers. The UEFI 2.0 specification (which replaces EFI 1.10) wasn't completed until early 2006, and as of mid-2006, no firmware manufacturers have completed a production implementation. Microsoft has stated that it intends on incorporating 64-bit UEFI support into a future update to Vista, but 32-bit UEFI will not be supported.
# PC-to-PC Sync, a Peer-to-peer technology for synchronizing folders on multiple computers running Vista, was removed due to quality concerns. It may arrive sometime in the future in some form.
Vista's premier interface, Windows Aero, is built on a new desktop composition engine called Desktop Window Manager. Windows Aero, also known as Aero Glass, adds support for 3D graphics (known as Flip 3D), translucency, window animation and other visual effects, and is intended for mainstream and high-end graphics cards and has various hardware requirements such as:
* 64 MB of dedicated graphics memory recommended for 1024x768, 128 MB for 1600x1200+.
* At least 32 bits per pixel.
* Pixel Shader 2.0
* 3D hardware acceleration with capabilities equal to DirectX 9.0.
* A memory bandwidth of 2 GB/s is recommended.
* Capable of drawing ~1.5 M triangles / second, one window being ~150 triangles.
* Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) Drivers.
Windows Aero is not planned for inclusion in the Home Basic and Starter editions, and both Windows Aero and Flip 3D require Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) to be passed.
Vista also offers other Aero modes. The Standard mode is a variation of Windows Aero without the transparencies, window animations, and other advanced graphical effects such as Flip 3D. Like Windows Aero, it uses the Desktop Compositing Engine, and has generally the same video hardware requirements as Windows Aero. This is the default mode for the Windows Vista Home Basic Edition. The Starter (developing markets) edition does not support this mode. The Basic mode uses the new desktop composition although it has an aspect similar to Windows XP's visual style with the addition of subtle animations such as those found on progress bars, with increased stability and smooth window re-draw. It does not feature transparency or translucency, window animation, Flip 3D or any of the functions provided by the DWM. The Basic mode requires Windows XP Display Driver Model (XPDM) or WDDM drivers as well as the graphics card requirements of Windows XP or 2000.
A more basic interface, Windows Classic, is available as well. An option for corporate deployments and upgrades, Classic has an interface very similar to the appearance of Windows 2000, and does not use the new Desktop Compositing Engine; Flip 3D, live window previews, and tearing-free window dragging are therefore not supported. Classic requires Windows XP Display Driver Model (XPDM) or WDDM drivers and the graphics card requirements of Windows 2000.
According to Microsoft, computers which can run Windows Vista are classified as Vista Capable and Vista Premium Ready. A Vista Capable or equivalent PC needs to have at least 800 MHz processor, 512 MB RAM and a DirectX 9 class graphics card, and will not be capable of supporting the high end Vista graphics, including the Aero user interface. A Vista Premium Ready PC will take advantage of Vista's "high-end" features but will need at least a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB main memory, and an Aero-compatible graphics card with at least 128 MB graphics memory and supporting the new Windows Display Driver Model. The company also offers a beta of Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor from its Web site to determine the ability of a PC to run Vista in its various guises. The utility only runs on Windows XP.
On February 26, 2006, Microsoft announced that Windows Vista will ship in six editions. All versions will be available in both 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x86-64) architectures, except Windows Vista Starter which will only be available for 32-bit architectures. A partial table of the features planned for each edition is also available at Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows.
Windows Vista Starter
Much like the Windows XP Starter Edition, this edition will be limited to emerging markets, mainly to offer a legal alternative to using unauthorized copies. It will be severely limited, for example only allowing a user to launch at most three applications with a user interface at once, will not accept incoming network connections, and physical memory is limited to 256 MB. As previously mentioned, it is also the only edition that will not be available for 64-bit architectures.
Windows Vista Home Basic
Similar to Windows XP Home Edition, Home Basic is intended for budget users not requiring advanced media support for home use. The Windows Aero theme with translucent effects will not be included with this edition. Home Basic will support up to 8 GB of physical memory.
Windows Vista Home Premium
Based on the Windows Vista Home Basic, this edition will additionally support more advanced features aimed for the home market segment, such as HDTV support and DVD authoring. Extra games, mobile and tablet computer support, file system encryption, and a photo management application are also included. This edition is comparable to Windows XP Media Center Edition and Tablet PC Edition. Home Premium will support up to 16 GB of physical memory.
Windows Vista Business
Comparable to Windows XP Professional, and aimed at the business market. Does not include the Media Center features of Home Premium, but does include the IIS web server, fax support, offline files, dual physical processor support, Remote Desktop, ad-hoc P2P collaboration capabilities, and support for 128 GB of memory. Product activation is not present in this edition.
Windows Vista Enterprise
This edition is aimed at the enterprise segment of the market, and is a superset of the Business edition. Additional features include a single-session version of Virtual PC, multilingual user interface support, BitLocker Drive Encryption, and UNIX application support. This edition will not be available through retail or OEM channels, but through Microsoft Software Assurance.
Windows Vista Ultimate
This edition combines all the features of Home, Premium and Enterprise editions, and additionally comes with podcast creation support — which Microsoft has dubbed "blogcasting" — a game performance tweaker (WinSAT), DVD ripping capabilities, and special online services for downloadable media, as well as additional customer service options. The Ultimate edition is aimed to be the most impressive edition of Vista, aimed at high-end PC users, gamers, multimedia professionals, and PC enthusiasts.
"Home Basic N" and "Business N" editions of Windows Vista will additionally be available in the European Union. These editions will ship without Windows Media Player, as required by sanctions brought against Microsoft for violating anti-trust laws.
The three retail editions (Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate) of Windows Vista will ship on the same DVD. The features of the Home Premium and Ultimate editions may be "unlocked" at any time by purchasing a one-time upgrade license through a Control Panel tool called Windows Anytime Upgrade. The Business edition will also be upgradable to Ultimate. Such licenses will be sold by Microsoft's partners and OEMs, but not directly by Microsoft.