Windows Vista was originally expected to ship sometime early in 2006 as a minor step between Windows XP and Windows Blackcomb. Gradually, Vista assimilated many important new features and technologies of Blackcomb. On August 27, 2004, Microsoft announced that it is delaying release of WinFS so that Vista could be released in "a reasonable timeframe" (officially marked as December of 2006). Two beta versions have been planned, the first expected to debut on or before 3 Aug 2005 and the second in Q4 2005, with release candidates to be released throughout 2006, five years after the release of Windows XP, making it the longest time span between releases of its Windows operating system.
Vista is currently available as a preview release available to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers, and at select Microsoft developer conferences. The preview release is classified as an alpha version at the moment, and as such its performance and feature sets are not representative of the release product. Like many other products (including all Windows releases since Windows 98), it has since been leaked onto popular file sharing networks.
Microsoft labels the key new technologies as "The Pillars of Vista", which are:
Fundamentals: new developments to the basic structure of the operating system including the .NET framework, further support for digital rights management (DRM), an application deployment engine ("ClickOnce"), improvements to the installation of applications (Windows Installer/MSI 4.0), and the Trustworthy Computing initiative, previously known as Palladium (see also trusted computing).
Avalon: a new user interface subsystem and API based on XML, .NET, and vector graphics, which will make use of 3D computer graphics hardware and Direct3D technologies. See Windows Graphics Foundation.
Indigo: a service-oriented messaging system to allow programs to interoperate as part of the .NET framework.
WinFX: a new API to allow access to these new features, replacing the current "Win32" API (see Windows API).
It is worth noting that Avalon, Indigo, and WinFX are technologies that will be made available to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 as well, and are therefore not technologies to be exclusive to Vista, but rather developed in time for the Vista release, to be incorporated in that operating system. This doesn't imply coming visual changes to these operating systems though, as Aero will still be exclusive to Vista. The reason for backporting these technologies is to allow an easier introduction to these technologies to developers and end users.
On March 26th Microsoft released a Community Preview featuring both Avalon and Indigo to enable developers to experiment with the new technologies without running the Alpha version of Vista. Due to many requests it was released to the general public and is available at Microsoft's website .
Additionally, Vista will include many other new features.
Vista will include a completely re-designed user interface, code-named Aero. The new interface is intended to be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing than previous Windows interfaces. The most visible addition to the interface is the sidebar (however this feature has been removed in the last alpha release), an area at the side of the screen consisting of tiles which display dynamic information about whatever window is currently in the foreground, which is essentially an extension of the "system tray" on the Windows task bar.
Vista will feature a new search engine that will allow for instant display of results for a given search. This is in contrast to the search engine of Windows XP, which can take several minutes to display results. The Vista search will allow you to add multiple filters to continually refine your search (Such as "File contains the word 'example'"). There will also be saved searches that will act as Virtual Folders, where opening a folder will execute a specific search automatically and display the results as a normal folder. The search will also feature other usability improvements. The Vista search is actually built on an expanded and improved version of the indexing service for the search in Windows XP. This feature is similar to Apple Spotlight.
Metro is the codename for Microsoft's next generation document format, which is based on XML. It is similar in many ways to Adobe Systems' PDF. Metro is intended to allow users to view, print, and archive files without the original program that created it. The name Metro also refers to the print path in Vista. With Metro, documents can remain in the same format from the time they are created to the time they are printed. Microsoft states that Metro will provide better fidelity to the original document by using a consistent format for both screen and print output.
While many analysts suspect Metro is intended to be a "PDF-killer", Microsoft insists that they are not attempting to duplicate all the functionality of the PDF. For example, at the time of this writing, Metro is not planned to have the capabilities for dynamic documents.
The new shell is a significant change from previous versions of Windows. Combined with the new desktop searching feature, the shell gives users the ability to find and organize their files in new ways. Apart from the typical file organization practice of using folders to contain files, a new collection known as Lists let you organize files from multiple locations in a single place.
A new type of folder known as a Shadow Folder enables the ability to revert its entire contents to any arbitrary point in the past.
Additionally, the shell contains significant advancements in the visualization of files on a computer. Previous versions of the Windows Shell would display thumbnails to represent different files on your computer. In Windows Vista the thumbnail concept is taken further by overlaying different imagery to communicate more information about the particular file such as a picture frame around the thumbnail of an image file, or a filmstrip on a video file. Windows Vista helps the user identify the file easily by more intelligently generating the thumbnails. Using algorithmic analysis, images are cropped around their likely subject, and interesting key frames are automatically chosen from a video file. Also, the ability to zoom the thumbnails in the shell greatly increases their usefulness.
Windows Vista is expected to have a brand new networking stack. A significant change is a more complete implementation of IPv6 which is now supported by all networking components, services, and the user interface. Vista also takes advantage of P2P technology to provide a new type of domain-like networking setup known as a Castle. Castles make it possible for user credentials to propagate across networked computers without a centralized server making them more suitable for a home network.
The ability to assist the user in diagnosing a network problem is expected to be a major new networking feature. Using technologies such as UPnP, Windows Vista has a greater awareness of the network topology the host computer is in. With this new network awareness technology it can provide help to the user in fixing network issues or simply provide a graphical view of the perceived network configuration.
Full support for the "NX" (No-Execute) feature of processors. This feature, present in AMD's AMD64 architecture, as well as Intel's EM64T Architecture, can flag certain parts of memory as containing data instead of executable code, which prevents overflow errors from resulting in arbitrary code execution. This should not be confused with trusted computing facilities provided by a so-called Fritz-chip.
Built-in DVD recording capabilities, including Mt. Rainier support.
A new installation program that will install Vista in about 15 minutes (which is present in alpha build 4074 of Windows Vista).
Native Raw Image support (a format used by most professional digital cameras).
Native, embedded RSS support, with developer API.
A new level of file encryption support from that available in Windows XP, which will make it easier and more automatic to prevent unauthorized viewing of files on stolen laptops/hard drives.
Monad. A new command-line interface called MSH, and codenamed Monad will not be fully implemented in Vista, but will exist in it to some extent. It plans to combine the Unix pipes and filters philosophy with that of object-oriented programming.
The "My" prefixes will be dropped, so "My Documents" will just be "Documents", "My Computer" will just be "Computer", etc.
Windows System Assessment Tool (WinSat), a built in benchmarking tool which analyzes the different subsystems (graphics, memory, etc), and uses the results to allow for comparison to other Vista systems, and for software optimizations. The optimizations can be made by both windows and third-party software. Tom's Hardware Overview
File Virtualization, when an individual program's permissions are restricted, allows that program to use its own 'fake' set of certain files so modifications to those files from said program does not alter the original files.
Transactional File Transfers, prevents a half updated set of files from being created during updates for example, which can cause stability problems.
InfoCard, a user interface to the Identity Metasystem.
Features and technologies delayed until future releases
WinFS (short for either Windows Future Storage or Windows File System): a combined relational database and filesystem, based on the next version of SQL Server (codenamed Yukon). Working on top of NTFS, it will provide abilities to represent objects and their relationships, rather than just a hierarchy of files and folders. The removal of WinFS from Windows Vista was announced in August 2004, and is expected to be released as an update to Vista, entering beta stages at about the same time as Vista is released. Microsoft's promotion of this technology has spurred the recent trend towards desktop search tools.
Full implementation of Monad.
Graphics hardware requirements
Vista's graphics requirements are defined in relation to the different desktop experiences.
This graphics mode adds support for 3D graphics, animation and visual special effects in addition to the features offered by Aero Express.
Intended for mainstream and high-end graphics cards.
At least 64 MB of graphics memory, 128 MB recommended, or 256 MB for 1600x1200+.
At least 32 bits per pixel.
3D hardware acceleration with capabilities equal to DirectX 9.
A memory bandwidth of 2 GB / second.
Capable of drawing ~1.5M triangles / second, one window being ~150 triangles.
A graphics card that uses AGP 4X or PCI Express 8-lane bus.
It is likely that such a configuration will be entry-level or lower by Vista's release in 2006.
A graphics mode customized for the Vista Media Center Edition, and will not be made available in the other editions. Not much information is currently available, but it appears that it will be the most advanced level of graphics in Vista, requiring hardware at the same level or greater than the Aero Glass visual style.
The lesser Aero visual experience offering only the basic visual improvements introduced by Vista, such as composition based DPI scaling.
Intended for mainstream or lower-end graphics cards.
Uses the Avalon Desktop Composition window manager.
A Vista Driver Display Model (LDDM) driver is a requirement.
Some graphics cards already support LDDM. In some Vista builds (4074, 5048), LDDM is already supported to run Aero Glass.
The new Vista look & feel without any visual special effects, similar to the visual style Luna of Windows XP in that it resembles merely an application skin. As with Luna, no additional hardware requirements compared to the classic Windows interface.
A simple option for consumer upgrades, and mobile / low-cost devices.
No additional requirements compared to the lesser Classic mode.
Fallback mode in case the hardware requirements for Aero aren't met.
The most basic user interface offered by Vista, which is also seen in Windows 2000, or Windows XP with its visual style Luna deactivated.
An option for corporate deployments and upgrades.
Requires Windows XP Display Driver Model (XPDM) or LDDM drivers.
No graphics card hardware requirements exceeding those of Windows XP.
Vista means "the visual percept of a region", with these synonyms: aspect, panorama, prospect, scene and view. Translated from Spanish and Italian, vista means: sight, vision, ability to see; look, glimpse; spectacle; viewfinder; range of view; point of view.
In Latvian, however, vista means 'hen' (grown-up female of a bird, ) and 'chicken' (as in food), and may also connote something or someone not particularly agile or clever.
Windows Vista has been unofficially abbreviated to Windows VI, staying with the traditional 2 character motif, as in 95, 98, Me, NT, XP. VI is also the number 6 in Roman numerals, and Windows Vista will carry the version number 6.0 (Windows 2000 and Windows XP being Windows NT versions 5.0 and 5.1, respectively).
Windows Vista sound like "bosta" in Argentinian culture.
In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, Vista is a part of the atmosphere that surrounds the world of Arda before the cataclysm at the end of the Second Age. Vista forms the inner layer of normal air: above it is Ilmen, and above that Vaiya.
On 25 July 2005, vnunet.com reports Microsoft might have to change the name of its upcoming operating system since the name Vista has already been the registered company name of a small internet related business since May 2000. However, The Seattle Times reports that Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake is confident that a change will not be necessary as the Microsoft trademark will be 'Windows Vista' never just 'Vista'; "We are only using the word Vista paired with our trademark Windows so the two together — 'Windows Vista' — form the name of our next operating system."