Redmond really did announce an amazing amount of stuff in the past three weeks, and it all ties together in an only slightly twisted Microsoft way.
My peep through Redmond's new Windows gave me a whole list of new features and characteristics concerning Vista (formerly Longhorn) - some of which I actually didn't yet know about and some of which aren't all that great. Never one to waste perfectly good news ooze, I present these new features for your perusal.
Of course, by now, we all know that Vista will be released in seven separate versions. And while this sounds like a lot, it's just the usual exercise of Microsoft covering all its bets. You've got two low-end versions, Starter and Home; a Web Server version; a Professional N version (which is the basic Pro analog); Small Business; Enterprise; and Ultimate. I'm still figuring out what exactly will be contained in Ultimate, but then again, anticipation is half the fun.
All these versions, however, lead to some bad news. A Microsoft licensing Webcast I came across announced that Windows Vista Enterprise will be available only to customers of the Software Assurance or Select License purchasing programs. While this may seem so restrictive as to make some us chafe, it's not really that tight a fit: Vista Enterprise really is aimed at larger companies, and most of these are members of SA already. So make a pouty face, but move on.
On to more exciting features. One that I missed - but one that apparently received some attention during the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2005 - is Superfetch. This sounds cool at first blush, allowing Vista users to add memory to an operating system session using USB 2.0 memory keys. Superfetch monitors a Vista installation's data and applications over time. It then loads these into memory at boot, thus increasing system performance because you're running your most-used apps out of what amounts to a RAM disk.
Downside: Combine Microsoft's tradition of code bloat with the year 2006 and you'd better up your Vista machine's RAM as high as your little pocketbook can afford. That or disable Superfetch, otherwise you'll not only be buying USB keys, you'll be buying upgradeable USB keys to keep performance manageable.
Microsoft is also announcing a strategic alliance with Canon aimed at developing a new colour management system for Vista. What's a colour management system do, specifically, you might ask? The slightly vague explanation is that it provides better colour predictability and fidelity throughout all presentation layers in the OS. But its more tangible result is a closer screen-to-printer colour matching experience. And this same technology will match colours to other external devices such as scanners, cameras, and the like.
Finally, check out the new Vista website. It's a one-stop shop for all news Vista, including links to Beta 1, a fairly current list of new features, and other sundry surprises, like Digital Locker (a new ISV service garnering these companies a new electronic software-distribution channel).
This is only a smattering of new Vista features, as there are certainly more to come. Microsoft is pulling out all the stops in its quest to get us excited about the new OS. And I would be, too, if I hadn't spent the last seven days immersed in the stuff. Let's just hope Redmond can make good on all its promises.