Getting the Vista Vibe

Getting the Vista Vibe

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Over the last two months, I’ve spent at least a hundred hours using the latest beta of Windows Vista. The bad news is, Vista’s left me more than a little underwhelmed.

When I preview a beta operating system (as in the Vista article on page 24), I try to reserve judgment on the OS as a whole. It’s not fair to judge a beta operating system based on in-development performance, beta drivers, and a build that’s gimped by debugging code. Instead, I detail the new features you’ll see and prep you for your first experience with the new OS. Along the way, however, I’ll make note of any problems I experience with the beta, things to check when I officially review the final code.

Normally, the most exciting time during an operating system’s development is the month leading up to the first feature-complete build—the Release Candidate. You see, when the fledgling OS goes “RC,” its list of new features is theoretically set in stone. Before that deadline, there’s a mad dash to shoehorn in the last new features before it’s too late, and the development team shifts to bug-hunt mode.

The builds leading up to that first RC are exciting for testers, too. It’s the first time we see the features that get us psyched about the new OS. Unfortunately, with Vista, I don’t see enough must-have features. Also, many of Vista’s advances are available elsewhere. Firefox offers most of the functionality of IE7, Windows Gadgets offer little more than Yahoo’s Widgets, and the integrated search functionality is only slightly better than desktop search engines you can download from Google or Microsoft for XP. The new Aero Glass interface is neat, but it’s not exciting enough to compel consumers to upgrade. Vista just seems like an incremental upgrade, and not the revolution we hoped for.

Usually by the time the fledgling OS reaches this phase, it’s begun to pull together into a cohesive, usable whole. Vista hasn’t reached that point yet.

Thankfully, Microsoft has noticed the same problems, and has made the tough decision to delay the OS. Instead of further neutering Vista to ship in time for the critical holiday sales season, the development team will take a few extra months to polish Vista, delaying the launch from November til January.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more delays, but I’m OK with that. I’m not happy with the current state of XP, but I’ve waited five long years for Vista. I’d rather wait a few months more than be stuck with a half-assed OS come January.

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