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by Archives March 15, 2006

It’s been almost six years since Microsoft released the last version of Windows. This October Windows Vista will go on sale, chock full of eye-candy and doodads. Here’s the rundown:

Vista will come in six flavours, but the ones of interest to us are Basic, Premium and Ultimate.

The two home versions are Basic and Premium. Premium will support the new Aero interface, which I guess means it will be prettier.

The main difference between the two versions is that Premium promises to be an “all-in-one home entertainment center.” It will include DVD authoring and ripping capabilities and HDTV support. If you have an Xbox 360, you’ll be able to network it with your computer and watch the movies you’ve downloaded on the TV in your living room.

Ultimate will include all of the extras in the home and business editions. One of those extras is an encryption system that allows you to use a USB device (like a USB flash drive) instead of a password to unlock your files.

Ultimate will also include a program called WinSAT that automatically adjusts Vista to give you the best performance possible whether you’re surfing the web or playing graphically intense videogames. This version of Vista also has handwriting recognition so users can use a digital pen or their finger instead of typing.

Upgrading will be streamlined in Vista. If you want to buy a more expensive version, you can simply go to the control panel and purchase an upgrade online and Vista will download the necessary files.

To compete with OS X’s Dock and Widgets, Microsoft is introducing the Sidebar and Gadgets. For the uninitiated, Gadgets are mini-applications like a calendar, stock quotes or a dictionary. It will be interesting to see what kinds of third-party Gadgets are developed. For example, there’s no reason why someone couldn’t create a Gadget that calls up bus schedules or movie reviews.

Security will be improved with Vista. Microsoft Defender, an anti-spyware tool, will be included as well a more advanced version of Windows Firewall. Vista will also include Windows Internet Explorer 7, which will finally use tabbed browsing and beefed up security.

Windows Media Player 11 will be released with Vista, which among other things is supposed to allow you to share your music and videos over a network. Microsoft must be looking at iTunes with envy, because the new version of Media Player will also include support for Microsoft’s new music, and eventually video, store: URGE.

All in all, Vista looks pretty impressive. Though there’s still no word from Microsoft if they’ve finally gotten around to implementing the “won’t crash at 3 a.m. when I’m working on a term paper” feature.

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