Charles Arthur: The Geek

Who's going to buy into Microsoft's new Vista?
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The Independent Online

But what will Vista, which won't be here until late 2006 at the earliest, actually do? On the Microsoft web page, there's a huge link to "Vista". (Developers get their hands on the first "beta" version next week.) Here, we read: "In today's digital world, you want the PC to adapt to you, so you can cut through the clutter and focus on what's important to you. It enables a new level of confidence in your PC and in your ability to get the most out of it. It introduces clear ways to organise and use information the way you want to use it. It seamlessly connects you to information, people and devices..."

So... what will it do? Here's what we do know. There will be a new version of Internet Explorer, IE7, with tabbed browsing and pop-up blocking (Netscape and Firefox have both). It will have a new user interface and graphics system, codenamed "Aero" (or "Avalon"). There'll be a "Trustworthy Computing" initiative, essentially meant to make it harder for unwanted stuff to get on your computer. There'll be deep, built-in search for local files (rather like Google Desktop, but more thorough).

Vista will have deep, built-in support for RSS, rather as earlier versions have for HTML. RSS lets one see what's changed on a website without visiting it; only new text, pictures, video or audio (think podcasts) will show up. This is a big move; RSS is spreading as a simple way to get websites connected. More on what's known (so far) is at

So... who's going to buy it. Obviously, Vista will be preloaded on virtually all PCs sold in 2007 (if deadlines are met). But that doesn't mean rapid adoption. Windows XP has been out for almost four years, and only about half of existing PCs use it.

Why? Most people don't upgrade the OS their PC comes with - it can be fraught with technical challenges. Even if it goes smoothly, there's always the suspicion that it didn't and something strange is happening. Also, most individuals keep their computers for up to four years. And many larger companies are only now adopting Windows XP. All that suggests a slow adoption of Vista, which will anyway be wrenchingly different from XP and its forerunners, involving much rewriting of software by developers.

So again, who'll buy Vista? Certainly people who want the latest thing. But Windows has bigger problems to tackle - for one, malware such as viruses, spyware and adware - and there's no indication yet that Vista will do that. I'll follow the beta with interest.