At First Glance, Vista Looks Like a Winner

Opinion: Beta 1 of Microsoft's next OS has a sleek interface to rival Apple's Tiger, and its search capabilities look promising.

Click here to view a slideshow of Windows Vista Beta 1.

In the Windows world right now there are two types of people: Beta Ones and Beta Twos. Each group will have a different reaction to the Wednesday beta release of Microsofts next-generation operating system, formerly known as Longhorn.

Developers and need-to-know IT professionals are the B1s. All they require is for the guts of the operating system to be in place so they can begin their work. Everyone else, including myself, are Beta Two people, who want even a first beta operating system to do exciting things right now.

I mention this because, if youre a B2, using this first beta release is a really frustrating experience. Windows Vista shows tremendous promise, but at this stage in its development its not ready to be used in any significant way.

Thats as it should be, of course, and Id warn IT managers against making any judgments based on Beta 1, which is slow, lacks features, and allowed me to crash badly enough that I needed to wipe my hard drive and start over from scratch. For this reason, Windows Vista B1 sometimes seems more tease than operating system.

Before I launch into first impressions, however, lets talk about what Microsoft is calling the "essence" of Windows Vista. In a recent presentation, Brad Goldberg, general manager of the Windows client, focused on three, very top-level design goals for the new operating system:

/zimages/2/28571.gifFirst beta of Vista goes to 20,000 testers. Click here to read more.

  • Confident. Microsoft promises security and privacy, improved performance, easier deployment and servicing, and greater reliability. Users are supposed to have greater confidence in Windows Vista than previous operating systems.
  • Clear. Vista, and I think this is where the name comes from, promises improved visualization of information, better information management, a browse/search/subscribe model for the Web, and better support for photos, music, and other media.
  • Connected. Vista is supposed to make it easier for systems, people, devices and places to connect to one another.

Microsoft has given demonstrations for all these Three "Cs," but Vista Beta 1 doesnt do a very good job of showing much of this goodness. Nevertheless, I find myself quite enchanted.

Windows Vista is the best-looking OS Microsoft has ever produced and is competitive with, and in some ways better, than Apples recently-introduced Mac OS X 10.4, aka Tiger.

Microsofts UI designers have figured out how to streamline the familiar Windows user interface without losing what it means to be Windows. Vista will not be confused with Tiger, but each now sports a very nice user interface. This was a very pleasant surprise, since I didnt really have any UI expectations.

At the same time, someone is going to have to write a book—maybe me—explaining the new file system features. Many people, including myself, believed the loss of the WinFS file system also meant the loss of "smart" file management features in Longhorn.

Next Page: Vista might change the way we search our networks.