The web is abuzz with news of what exactly we can expect in the way of features in Windows Vista, once it's eventually released. One prime source of information is the Microsoft Developer Network, who's faithful staff have the scoop on what's in and what's out of the new OS, as detailed in their daily blogs, vlogs and podcasts... ..sorry, blogcast!
Yes, you heard right - Microsoft have even put an end to the use of the pod word prefix on staff podcasts, insisting instead on them being referred to as blogcasts, PLEASE!
Maybe they feel that acknowledging the existence of an Apple product publicly, in whatever small way, would tip people off as to where all their ideas come from? Well, I've news for you Mr. Gates, we worked that one out years ago.
For just as surely as Windows version 1.0, through to 3.1, 95, 98 and beyond where blatant bastardizations of the Macintosh User Interface, Vista is no exception. From the vector based rendering of all the graphic elements of the desktop space through to the animated shrinking and growing of windows.
They've even thought to allow the animation of such actions to be slowed down, to show off how cool it is to see a window seamlesley vanish into a minimized dock icon, by holding down the Shift key, again exactly like OS X has done for the last 4 to 5 years.
Once in the Dock.. ..sorry, Taskbar, minimized windows can be previewed by floating the mouse over them. Similar in many ways to how the Mac OS Dock handles minimized application windows, although to be fair the demo I saw was base on a programming model which exposes a lot more of the API to developers who want to exploit this feature a lot more than seems to be available for developers of Mac code who want to integrate the Dock in their apps.Spotlight
Finding a file on your hard drive under Windows XP was a tortuous affair involving animated dogs and 4 or 5 clicks of tiny text boxes. Vista does away with all that and simply presents the user with a find-as-you-type search box, which not only searches within documents for keywords and meta data but also file names, dates and times et cetera. Something in the Mac world known as Spotlight. Is there an echo in here?
No one working on Vista can say for sure what kind of video card you'll need to use these new graphical elements. So it's unlikely early adopters will get to see such enhancements to the UI running on their existing low to mid-spec PC's once Vista is actually released, but things like Spotlight, or whatever they're calling it, should work fine on even modest machine - after all, Google's desktop search for Windows has been doing the same job on XP for about a year now.What did you expect?
Perhaps in the interest of balance it's only fair to point out that no one, least of all this Mac user, seriously expected Microsoft to ignore the major advantages to workflow that such UI elements as those found in Mac OS give to the user.
After all, no one accused Microsoft being uninventive way back in their early days when DOS unified things like drive letters and eight dot three file name extensions and so on.. ..oh no wait they did! Gary Kildall's CPM did all that and they stole.. ..ahem, reverse engineered it and sold it to IBM as if it was their own - now I remember! Sheesh, the things that slip your mind eh?Bitter hatred aside
No one can deny XP was infinatly more stable than it's predecessors. The fact is, even Windows 98 was more stable than it's equivalent Mac OS 8 & 9, when it came to multi-threaded memory and processor hungry apps. But things in the Mac world have moved on SO much since then, I honestly don't see how Vista can reclaim some of the high end professionals who've long since gone back to Apple, after a late 1990's flirtation with Windows - nor do I think Vista expects them to come back.
Mac OS's UNIX core is a huge draw of interest for scientific applications, medial research and mid to high end audio and video professionals alike and nothing Vista can do to mimic Mac OS's versatility on the surface can change that.
But the basic fact is, Microsoft design Operating Systems which run on near enough any third party hardware. Fact. And no one is blind to the fact that this therefore makes the range of possible problems which can arise when integrating your OS with different vendor's hardware a development stage headache. That's why Vista is late.
It's also the reason why Microsoft aren't going out on a limb with things like a 3D desktop or some other nice idea which would be truly innovative and engaging - for all these two adjectives are bandied about in the corridors or Microsoft in reference to what, whether you like it or not, will be their most successful product so far.
Such things as a 3D workspace would be very hard to manage, design and re-train the customer to understand. That's why even Apple have yet to attempt anything which drastically moves away from the top-down 2D approach to the desktop workspace. But it would be nice to see at least something in Vista which Microsoft can call their own - just as it would be at least respectful of their grinning faces, as seen in the endless stream of video blogs posted to their channel 9 developer network forum, to stop for a moment and admit that much of what they are doing has already been done, and by the same company who continually shows everyone else the way.
In closing, I thing Steve Jobs put it best when asked about the iPod recently. "80% of any market is amazing by anyone's standards. It just goes to show what real innovation can do when it isn't stifled by an unfair monopoly".