For the past few years, even before the release of Windows XP in 2001, Microsoft has been talking about a new revolutionary operating system, meant to replace the “obsolete” system. Microsoft continuously delays the release of the new OS in the face of growing consumer anticipation as a result of numerous technical contingencies. Five years and a new name later, what do we have today? We’ve all heard of tidbits of what’s going on with it (system requirements, naming debates, etc.), but what about the whole story? Instead of looking squarely at the features that Vista has, it’s about time to take a look at the winding trail that Microsoft has taken with its supposed revolutionary operating system.
Microsoft began developing a new operating system in May 2001. Even before the release of Windows XP OS (codenamed “Whistler”), Microsoft reached out to its successor. Initially, the new operating system, codenamed “Longhorn”, was supposed to be released in late 2003 as a transition between Windows XP and OS codename “Blackcomb”. As time progressed, Microsoft slowly incorporated many of the major features that Blackcomb was supposed to incorporate. A few reported that Microsoft will make Blackcomb a server-only OS, while other PR sources report that Microsoft axed Blackcomb entirely. In any case, “Longhorn” is the next consumer-level operating system out of Redmond. However, analysts predicted that it would be very hard for Microsoft to pull off a feat of this magnitude, considering the level of sophistication that Longhorn was supposed to have. In a speech at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, Bill Gates stirred up some anticipation:
“So it’s going to come together in “Longhorn.” This is our next major release. Jim will make sure — it’s very clear we’re at the beginning of this process. You know, we’re opening it up to you, showing you what we’re thinking, because we need your feedback. We need your involvement to get this right.
This is going to be a very big release — the biggest release of this decade, the biggest since Windows 95. We’re tackling three different areas: the fundamentals — that means the security, the auto-installation; applications not interfering with each other. There’s a lot in the fundamental area. Jim has very deep passion for this, and he’ll be going through all the different things that we’ve been able to do there.”
As many of you may think, that sounds very ambitious. Microsoft planned many changes for Longhorn, among them a new file system, a revamped three-dimensional interface, and a host of new default applications. However, with Blackcomb practically merged with Longhorn, Microsoft pushes Longhorn back to late 2004. Microsoft runs into numerous security problems with its current operating system, Windows XP, which results in developers being transferred out of Longhorn development. As a result, Microsoft pushes Longhorn back to 2006. Due to growing security concerns, Microsoft was forced to incorporate a higher level of security to Longhorn’s structure and eliminate a few major features of Longhorn, including the highly anticipated next-generation file system called WinFS. Microsoft pushes back Vista once again, citing security concerns.
Continuing on with this winding trail, Microsoft publicly and officially announced their next-generation operating system as “Windows Vista” in a MS Global Business Conference in July 2005. The naming has gone under some mockery and criticism – for example, it was a topic of an earlier Kudos & Calamities column by Force Flow. Soon following the announcement, Microsoft released Beta 1 to select registered developers. With numerous bugs needed to be worked out, Microsoft set November 2006 to early 2007 as a target date for mass-release of Vista. In the meantime, Microsoft pondered the high system requirements that were leaked for Windows Vista. With growing consumer concerns and with Vista’s release seemingly becoming more imminent, Microsoft decided to label select manufacturer-built systems as “Vista Ready”. Vista-ready systems are just that – on the default system specification of a given system, Windows Vista will be able to run.
Microsoft recently released a release candidate version of Windows Vista. While labeled “RC1″, it’s more of a Beta three version as it has not taken a large step over the older version, Beta two. The company announced that most version of Vista should be available by January 30, 2007. The rollout of a release candidate might be a sign of progress. But then again, do you believe that Windows Vista will be out by then? We’ll see.
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