Six of the best as Microsoft unveils Vista versions

1 Mar 2006

Microsoft has confirmed there will be six new versions of its new operating system (OS) Vista, which is due for full release in the second half of the year.

The OS is “feature complete”, according to Microsoft, and is currently in bug-testing phase. A new beta version is scheduled to be released in April. No pricing details are available yet and a final launch date has yet to be announced.

Formerly known as Longhorn, Vista will have two business versions, Vista Business and Vista Enterprise; three consumer versions, Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate; and one for emerging markets, Vista Starter. This is the same number as that currently available for Windows XP, the software company said.

Vista Ultimate will include Windows Media Center home entertainment software. Previously this was only available by buying a PC with the software pre-loaded.

Vista has a new user interface known as Windows Aero which displays windows on the PC desktop with a transparent glass effect. The recommended computer spec to run this feature is a PC with 1GB of RAM and a separate graphics card. However, Microsoft officials said that the underlying OS will run on any machine built over the past 18 months.

Searching has been made much easier in Vista and this feature, which is accessed via the toolbar, lets users find documents, digital photos, music or applications not just by name but also based on content within a file.

Vista has a strong emphasis on security and Microsoft said it hoped this would spur greater uptake of the new OS. Windows Defender anti-spyware software is supplied as part of the package and this has features designed to prevent rogue code from running on the user’s computer.

The Enterprise version includes an additional security feature that encrypts data so that if the computer is lost or stolen the data on it cannot be retrieved by an unauthorised party.

The OS comes with a new peer-to-peer wireless networking feature called ‘people near me’ that creates a permission-based session between two or more laptop users that allows them to share files and collaborate on documents securely without the hassle of having to connect via cables or swap USB storage keys.

By Gordon Smith