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Operating Systems

Windows Vista: past and future

Jeff Putt of Microsoft Australia discusses the future of Vista, and looks at the hardware hits (and misses) that have accompanied their operating systems.

Jeff Putt of Microsoft Australia discusses the future of Vista, and looks at the hardware hits (and misses) that have accompanied their operating systems.

Jeff Putt is the Windows Client Business group director at Microsoft Australia.

Windows Vista was officially launched on 30 January, 2007 after a five year gap between operating systems. Vista boasts several new features including the much-hyped "Aero" interface, enhanced parental controls and an integrated search tool.

As well as new features, Microsoft announced several new partnerships with media outlets, including Sanity Online for a new type of "music rental" service, and BigPond Movies for downloadable rental movies.

Windows Client Business group director of Microsoft Australia, Jeff Putt, said Sanity was chosen because it was a strong brand in Australia: "We're really looking to do an Urge (the US online store) only in Australia, and I think we've really 'knocked it out of the park' so to speak. We went through quite an exhaustive tender process, and we were delighted they chose to respond and respond as well as they did." He added that the service was due to go live in April.

The BigPond Movies service, however, is available now, with most movies costing AU$5.95 or less. While not all new movies are available on the service, Putt believes this method of content delivery is the way of the future.

"I've been playing with the BigPond service for the last couple of weeks. It's just red-hot. You're home on a Saturday night, there's nothing on TV. You can't be arsed going down the video store and when you do you never get it back on time", Putt said.

He said he didn't find the process of ordering a movie at all difficult, and that it "may actually hasten broadband take-up", as well as encourage providers to adjust pricing on their Internet plans so that users can download more content for less.

Windows Vista Home Premium is the first consumer operating system to incorporate other specific OS's such as Tablet and Media Center Edition. Media Center was originally seen as the way forward, and lounge room PCs were to be the next revolution, but take-up has been slow. Recently, however, things have improved, as vendors like Dell have recently made it standard on all PCs sold.

"Interestingly enough, in the last six months, Media Center sales have gone through the roof", Putt said. "People are really getting on board with it, and I look at it this way -- Media Center is an operating system that is basically designed to help you use your PC the way you want to use it: photos, movies, music. It's the right way to consume that content."

Putt believes that Windows Vista, in combination with extenders such as the Xbox 360, will finally change the way people access their content.

Putt said that Media Center was still a part of the "hi-fi enthusiast arena" but that its inclusion in the most popular version of Vista would change that perception. He said people would buy extenders and then look to try something more advanced.

"Now I'll go 'oh, I've got my PC there, I've got the nice remote keyboard so I can use it on the big screen if I want to.' It starts to come full circle. At the moment I think you'll see extenders and then full PCs taking more of a share", he said.

"As with all things ecosystem, I think it takes a long time for the planets to align, and when they do they look great. So you'll start to see some real innovation from some of our partners, but also too, now with Media Center being part of Vista Home Premium, any PC can be a media centre", Putt said.

One of these innovations includes the new range of HP "touch-capable" PCs, which were announced the week before Vista officially launched. The new touch interface utilises the Tablet features in Vista, as well as using the newly "touchable" Media Center interface.

But Putt isn't as convinced as HP about the effect this technology will have on the market: "It's not going to change the landscape that much but it will bring more people into computing, and that's a good thing."

But not all hardware/software collaborations that Microsoft have embarked on have been successful. The UMPC, originally codenamed Origami, is a tablet-like PC that is designed to act as a media device. However, consumer demand has been slow, and the UMPC is now mainly used by businesses.

"As interfaces evolve we're going to see them used for different things. The UMPC's a classic example: the thumb keys, the Origami? Great interface -- not a device", Putt said.

"We've got a range of partners, and what we require ... We'll build the code and they've got to build the hardware in response to that. Our job is to make sure the code runs well, and with Vista I think we've actually taken a quantum leap forward", Putt said.

"These people that are bring out these things, Vista's going to be the operating system on which they do this stuff", he added.

While some people have criticised Microsoft and hardware manufacturers alike for a lack of driver support on release, some pundits are suggesting customers wait till Service Pack One before buying the operating system. Putt suggests that at the moment the complaints are more of a "squeaking wheel" effect, and that the problems will soon be fixed.

He said there is no need to wait for the Service Pack model of the past: "I think service packs are going to change in the future. I think that if you look at it, service packs [are] really an offline concept. If you think about it, it's about 'here's all the changes we've done, and if you want 'em mate, here it is.'"

"Whereas I think that Automatic Update is now, you're a nut if you don't get into it, you know what I mean? There's just so much goodness there for your machine. Things like One Care is almost like a health check for your PC and an ongoing health insurance policy.  I think that Service Pack One will be really just a collection of Automatic Updates collected over a period of time, rather than a massive thing that people need to wait for," Putt said.