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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  • stash - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Sleep is more effecient in the long run. Shutting down and doing a cold boot every day uses a lot more electricity than sleep. When the machine is in sleep, it uses a fraction of a single watt. Yes, this is obviously more than zero (completely off), but when you cold boot a system, it uses many times more power.

    As a side benefit, you get back to where you left off almost instantly because sleep combines standby with hibernation.
  • Griswold - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Oh so wrong. Why would a cold boot use more power? Because the HDDs spin up? Going from sleep to full on does the same. Because the OS has to be loaded from the HDD? Sleep mode also writes to disk. And thats actually it. This is a computer, not an engine that uses more fuel at startup than when it runs.
  • stash - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    When you can resume from sleep in a few seconds compared to 45-60 seconds from a cold boot, then yes, a cold boot uses much more power.
  • johnsonx - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Stash, your logic is faulty. Please give up.
  • stash - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Why should I give up? How is my logic faulty.
  • smitty3268 - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    <I>Is Expose the same as the new compiz and XGL?</I>

    No, that is more like the Aero interface or OSX's Quartz Extreme. Expose lets you hit a button and then automatically scales and moves every window so that you can see them all and pick out which program you want to use. Think of it as a replacement for ALT-TAB. There is a plugin in compiz that does the same thing.
  • Locutus465 - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Not sure what your issues with 3D were, I only skimmed the artical so I'm sure which video card you used... But it's possible that if you're using ATI you experienced problems due to their drivers. I've seen many more ATI issues in the MS groups than nVida. My 7800GT has no problem with 1600x1200 (full 3d acceloration, no apparent crashing). My only concern wth Vista 64 is drivers... As of right now there's no driver avaailable for the Promies Ultra100TX2 controller card which is a huge issue for me as I have my secondary drive (used to store installers and as my page file drive in XP). I hope MS manages to convince to support 64b as well as 32b is supported. When I do upgrade to Vista, it will be to 64b.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Page 10: using 6800 Ultra card.

    The problem is both with drivers (64-bit are still being worked on), the OS (still being worked on), and resource requierments are increased under 64-bit mode. Compatibility with various hardware is already worse with Vista, but 64-bit mode is even worse still. Can they fix it before shipping? Hopefully, and one way or another we're going 64-bit in the future.

    It could be that other test systems would be more or less stable, but with a preview of Vista Beta 2 that's really too much extra work. The article was already over 12000 words, so trying it out on five other platforms would make this monolithic task even more daunting. The bottom line is that Vista is still interesting, but it's definitely not ready for release. There's a good reason it has been delayed until 2007, just like the XP x64 delays in the past.
  • DerekWilson - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    We have tested Vista with both ATI and NVIDIA drivers and see similar issues between the two. While the numbers were gathered under NVIDIA hardware, we are confident that the same patterns would emerge with ATI at this point in time.
  • Locutus465 - Friday, June 16, 2006 - link

    Well, weird... I've had my share of beta issues but thus far Glass + 3D acceleration hasn't been one of them. I have noticed that installing QuickTime 7 on Vista (at least in my case) renders Vista Ultimite 64 unbootable.

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