Some more on Windows Vista

Thomas Lee‘s second session at the recent IT Forum ’05 highlights (part 2) event was a Windows Vista overview and roadmap. I blogged about Vista a few months back, based on a marketing-led presentation that I seen. Thomas’ slide deck was also marketing-led, but I was pleased to see that he only followed it loosely and talked about the technology instead. These were some of the points that jumped out for me:

  • PC technology trends are shifting. 64-bit computing is finally going mainstream (the Longhorn server wave of products will be 64-bit only). At the same time, the x86 architecture is proliferating with new compact PCs (and even new Intel-based Apple Macs). Graphics processor improvements are exceeding Moore’s law (hence the reason for designing the operating system around graphical capabilities). Networking is increasingly wireless. Multi-core CPUs are now appearing on the market. Storage availability is rising, with a tremendous variety in flash-based devices. Memory is faster (and we’re using more of it). Flat-screen monitors are now the norm, getting larger (and drawing less power than their CRT-based counterparts). Windows Vista is designed to take advantage of all of these technology trends.
  • Windows Vista has new some new/updated administrative tools including enhancements to computer management (the diagnostic console and reliability monitor) and a vastly improved event viewer (featuring many more logs, and an XML view).
  • My recent post about opening multiple home pages in Firefox was thanks to Thomas highlighting this feature in Internet Explorer (IE) 7, along with tabbed browsing, RSS integration and a phishing filter which highlights suspect URLs in yellow and has a feedback mechanism so that often-reported sites show up with a red highlight). One item that I think is particularly cool is the Quick Tabs view with a thumbnail of each open browser tab.
  • Control Panel got bigger (more granularity).
  • Desktop search actually works.
  • Fast user switching is available for domain-connected PCs and there is the new user access protection (UAP) functionality. For example, if I try to change the date/time (an incorrect time would be critical to Kerberos) on a Vista machine, UAP kicks in and prompts me before allowing the change. I’m going to try and run using an unprivileged account and switch users where I absolutely need to be an administrator. As Thomas put it, this is effectively helping out the naive without holding back advanced users.
  • On the deployment side – forget everything you know about NT/2000/XP deployment. Windows Image (.WIM) files replace setup folders and there are new tools such as ximage to manipulate them.
  • Although not deployed by default in Windows Vista, the Microsoft command shell (codenamed Monad) can be used to automate a variety of functions.

Windows Vista is a huge investment (both for Microsoft and for organisations upgrading from Windows 2000/XP). I have to agree with Thomas when he says that instead of concentrating on the negative (the current version is buggy, slow, and there is stuff missing), let’s remember that this is a beta product! I don’t really care about the new interface (I think many corporates will find this a burden both in terms of hardware requirements and end-user re-training) but there are a whole host of features that I can’t wait to get into production.

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