LAS VEGAS—Microsoft Corp. wants to make sure its forthcoming Windows Vista operating system wont be all show and no go.
To that end, Bill Gates, the companys chairman and chief software architect, demonstrated Vistas ability to offer consumers what he says is a more immersive experience. The venue was his annual keynote address that opens the International Consumer Electronics Show here.
Thus Gates, assisted by several other Microsoft executives, touted numerous Vista features, such as a built-in photo editor that can quickly touch up digital photos before they can be shared—also maintaining an original should a user want to go back.
The content and other applications will arrive along with the operating system and smooth over gaps between common consumer-oriented computing tasks, ranging from viewing Web content or broadcast television to sharing photos and listening to music on PCs and numerous other devices.
“Software will come in and make things both simpler and more effective … in picking the music you want and finding out more about that artist,” for example, Gates said.
This consumer-focused goal extends beyond the Windows Vista release. Indeed, progress in software development, Gates said, could create scenarios in which people take news feeds with them by transferring files from a television screen to a cell phone—something that could become reality by the end of the decade. In addition, users could stay connected by accessing their personal calendars and other information via remote desktops at airport lounges, he said.
The company, in the interim, will concentrate on pairing more consumer-friendly features and services with Windows.
Vista will also include numerous other content-centric interface features, including a beefed-up search function that can show numerous thumbnail photos and then pop up larger versions when a user moves the cursor over them, or offer up album covers to help represent music files.
ExtremeTech gets up close and personal with Windows Vista, Build 5270, released in late December.
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The photo editing and search features are combined in what Microsoft calls Memories, which allows a user to archive and then find photos and videos, searching by date, tags or keywords, the executives said.
Microsoft has shown off many of the features, such as advanced search, before. However, Gates said they underscore a broader vision, which Gates says over the next few years will have consumers and also businesses sharing content over a variety of devices, ranging from traditional PCs to large in-home touch screens, or office displays, with the ability to shift those feeds to handhelds or even cellular phones on the go.
Thus “2006 is going to be a big year for digital lifestyle,” Gates said. “Software is providing the power, but software has [also] got to provide simplicity.”
Microsoft Eyes New Content,
Microsoft is also eying new content, some which was unveiled for the first time during the Wednesday night keynote.
MTV Networks, for one, will launch Urge, an online music superstore based on a forthcoming version of Windows Media Player—allowing consumers to tap 100 CD-quality radio stations and 2-million-track song library, videos and other content such as news and blogs for the MTV, VH1 and CMT channels.
Microsoft Media Center PCs—desktops and notebooks that run a special, multimedia-oriented version of Windows XP and which in the future will use a new Vista version of Media Center—will gain access to DirecTV Inc. content thanks to a deal between the two companies announced on Wednesday night during the keynote.
Meanwhile, in Media Center form, Vista will also be able to access digital cable and high-definition DVD disks, Gates announced.
Microsoft Live, a new services-oriented offering from the company, will assist consumers in finding television programs to watch on their PCs. A TV gadget will be able to make suggestions on shows for people to record, based on their history of watching programs as well as their personal references, the executives said.
Gates also demonstrated a pair of cordless telephones, one from Royal Philips Electronics and the other from Uniden America Corp., that can connect to both forthcoming Windows Live Messenger service VOIP (voice over IP) phone networks. The two phones will come out later this year, he said.
Finally, the executives discussed several of Vistas user interface features, one of which will be called Flip 3D and another called Sidebar. Flip 3D moves each open window sideways and allows a person to scroll through them with a mouse or an arrow key, instead of using the Alt-Tab feature, which pages through application icons.
Sidebar allows a person to place items, such as a small picture window, sports scores or a time, off to one side of the desktop, where they can be monitored.
The build demonstrated by Microsoft product managers during the Gates keynote was Number 5270, which is the December Community Technology Preview (CTP) release that Microsoft
The build that testers received did not include the Sidebar feature that Microsoft showed off at CES, however. Company officials said at the end of last year to expect the Sidebar to be included in one of the Vista builds distributed in 2006, most likely in Beta 2.
Microsoft has said to expect Vista to ship in the latter half of 2006. However, the company has yet to provide a firm date for Beta 2 or the final RTM (release to manufacturing or shipment of the OS to PC makers for pre-installing on PCs) of the product.
But Microsoft has said to expect the code to be available in time for PC vendors to preload it on PCs that will be sold during the holiday 2006 timeframe.
Editors Note: Mary Jo Foley provided additional reporting for this story.