In this countdown of where Microsoft has scored and stumbled with Vista, our opinionated writer says yes to the Aero interface and Sidebar Gadgets, no to beefed-up graphics hardware requirements and a tough installation process.
It seems that no one can be ambivalent about Windows Vista. Either you love it and you're a Microsoft suck-up, or you find it wanting in comparison to Apple's OS X and you're a Bill Gates basher. Me, I can see both sides of the argument.
Philosophically, Vista is dead on. It combines the best historical features of Windows with elegant usability concepts drawn from the Macintosh world.
My test drive of the new Beta 2 release of Windows Vista turned up two big surprises. First, it was fairly shocking to realize that this beta is indeed a beta. Although the consumer version of the operating system is due to ship in January 2007, there are still lots of glitches that need to be fixed.
My second surprise was the realization that Vista is first and foremost shaping up to be a consumer OS. It's got a glitzy look and feel that will go over better in Best Buy than in the boardroom.
For businesses, the big question will be whether the improved security provided by Vista will be worth the expense of the beefier PC hardware required to run it properly. I'm betting that many workplaces will probably migrate from Windows XP to Vista later rather than sooner. In contrast, connected consumers might queue up to purchase the new OS in droves reminiscent of the "midnight madness" retail frenzy with which Microsoft launched its Xbox 360 last year.
My detailed dive into Vista Beta 2 put some meat on those initial-observation bones. Here then, in no particular order, are my top 10 Windows Vista raves and rants.
1) Hit: Vista's Sidebar & Gadgets
Gadgets are little applets that more or less permanently reside on the right side of your desktop. The ho-hum ones post the time and track the temperature. But there are others that'll make you forget you ever considered solitaire a viable way to while away the workday. I'm talking about Video Poker and Sudoku. If ever there was an app that begged for a boss screen, Gadgets is it.
Vista's desktop is home to Microsoft's new Sidebar and its applet-like Gadgets. Click image to enlarge and to launch image gallery.
Microsoft has been criticized for the paucity of Gadgets currently available -- Vista only has 10. (Many more third-party Gadgets are offered for use with Windows Live, an online MSN successor for which you can customize your own home page. Those Gadgets won't work with Vista, nor will Vista Gadgets run on XP.) However, with developers being encouraged to build more Vista Gadgets, there are sure to be many more on the way soon.
On the downside, Gadgets may offer an alternate route for spyware to enter the desktop via third-party offerings that illicitly do more than they promise. And some legitimate apps, such as the intrusive RealPlayer, might be tempted to enlist gadgetry to give nuisances like its pop-up message center a permanent home on Vista's desktop.
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