Microsoft Windows Vista Beta 1 Announced

Microsoft is making available the first beta of their new operating system, to be called Windows Vista. Windows Vista is expected to be available near the end of 2006 and it is Microsoft’s first new operating system since Windows XP was released in 2001.

Windows Vista’s includes a number of improvements including a translucent glass skin for open folders and application windows, faster desktop searches, the ability to create virtual folders, better security, and performance enhancements. Some of the technologies have been available in Apple’s Mac OS-X operating system and some commentators suggest Microsoft is playing catch up.

Virtual folders should make management of files easier. Rather than showing files located in just one folder, virtual folders check for new documents related to a particular saved search every time they are open. In this way, users could keep track of many different types of documents all related to one particular topic in one virtual folder, rather than having to go to several different folders to find the documents they need.

While Internet searching has sped up over the years, searching the documents on your own computer’s hard drive has been notoriously slow in previous versions of Windows. Several third parties such as Google and Yahoo have created search tools that can be downloaded and used on your own computer. Now Windows Vista’s will have similar capabilities built into the operating system. All Explorers in the new operating system, including Internet Explorer, will have a search box for local computer searches.

Existing folders that received an overhaul in Windows XP will provide even more information in Windows XP. For example, images in a pictures folder will include information about the camera used, personal ratings, and keywords entered by users to improve searches. It appears that Microsoft is dropping the “My” from their folder names used in Windows XP like “My Pictures”.

Many of the technologies originally planned for the next Windows operating system have been dropped, such as a brand new file management system. Some of these new technologies will show up in an upcoming version of Microsoft’s server operating system. Meanwhile, it is expected that Apple will have released another update to their own operating system by the time Windows Vista comes out. It is not clear how the two will compare at the time. Apple has been making significant progress in the past few years with its iPod and other offerings. However, the market share of their operating system remains a small fraction compared to Microsoft’s own.

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