Microsoft Issues Platform Updates for Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008

Microsoft introduced platform updates for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, with more runtime libraries for supporting new technologies. Despite Microsoft's full-court press to get users to adopt Windows 7, it will likely need to continue to service Vista until extended support for the older operating system ends in 2017.

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Microsoft's Windows 7 was meant to shut the door on Redmond's older operating systems, with its Oct. 22 launch event in New York City viewed by many analysts as a sort of exorcism of the much-maligned Windows Vista. But Vista still has some life left, as evidenced by the Oct. 27 release of the Platform Update for Windows Vista.

"The Platform Update for Windows Vista features a set of runtime libraries which add support for new technologies," Brandon LeBlanc, a spokesperson for Microsoft, wrote in an Oct. 27 posting on The Windows Blog, "making it easier for developers to develop for Windows 7 and Windows Vista without impacting their users."

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The free Platform Update is available through Windows Update, Windows Server Update Services and the Microsoft Download Center. Among the features contained:

Windows Ribbon and Animation Manager Library: The Windows Ribbon API allows developers to create rich ribbon experiences within applications, while the Windows Animation Manager API provides "an animation framework for managing the scheduling and execution of user interface element animations."

Windows Graphics, Imaging, and XPS Library: This part of the update is meant for developers who work on games, multimedia, imaging or printing applications. It includes DirectX support for hardware acceleration for 2D, 3D and text-based scenarios, "DirectCompute for hardware accelerated parallel computing scenarios," and XPS Library for any developers' document printing scenarios.

Windows Automation API: "Allows accessibility tools and test automations to access Windows user interface in a consistent way across operating system versions." This part of the update will also be available as a separate download for Windows XP-equipped PCs.

Windows Portable Devices Platform: Standardizes data transfers between applications and portable devices such as smartphones and portable media players.

More information about the update can be found on this Microsoft site. Microsoft is also issuing a Platform Update for Windows Server 2008, which includes the Windows Automation API, Windows Ribbon and Animation Manager Library APIs, and the Windows Graphics, Imaging, and XPS Library.

Windows Vista will likely go down in tech history as one of the great misfires by a major IT company. Soon after its 2007 release, the operating system gained a reputation as memory-intensive and application incompatible. Users complained that Vista's User Account Control was too aggressive in asking them to approve changes to the system, and IT pros raised a variety of security concerns.

Despite a series of Service Packs and patches designed to correct these issues, Vista never managed to shake that stigma, and adoption rates accordingly suffered. Some 80 percent of the enterprise continues to run Windows XP as their primary operating system, according to a recent report by research firm Forrester Research.

In light of that, and coupled with a need to boost its revenues after a relatively dismal 2009, Microsoft seems anxious to move its users as quickly as possible onto Windows 7. In addition to offering a variety of deals and financial incentives to migrate, Redmond has worked to make Windows 7 available in a variety of ways, including the ability to download a netbook-friendly version of the platform onto a bootable USB or DVD.

In the meantime, mainstream support for Vista is still scheduled for retirement in April 2012, with retirement of extended support slated for April 2017.