Is Windows Vista Living Up to the Dream?

November 8 is the official release to manufacturing date of Microsoft's latest operating system.

A year ago Jim Allchin, the former Co-President, Platform and Services Division, who divorced from Microsoft on the same day Vista hit the shelves, being replaced by Steven Sinofsky with the role of Senior Vice President, Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group, as the head of the Windows project, announced the Vista RTM saying just: "It's time!" This of course is a mere prefiguration of "the Wow is now" slogan designed to push the operating system to general consumers.

At that time Windows Vista was running on in excess of 60,000 machines over in Redmond and on a few million computers worldwide thanks to the testing milestone releases. According to statistics from Net Applications, Vista has a share of just 0.11% of the operating system market. Microsoft's five year journey from Windows XP in 2001 had finally delivered Vista.

"And just what is this so-called RTM? It’s the major milestone where we can confidently say that Microsoft is done with Windows Vista and will be handing it off to our industry partners: PC makers, ISVs and IHVs. They in turn will continue to ramp-up in earnest now that the target is locked -- for example, by refining hardware drivers -- in order to complete the cycle and make Windows Vista available via retail channels on 30 January 2007. On that date Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system will be available to customers around the world", revealed at the time Nick White, Product Manager at Microsoft working on the Windows Vista launch team.

Reduced Piracy Mode
Just days after the Vista code went gold, the first pirated versions of the operating system began emerging. Microsoft has high hopes for Vista in its constant face-off with Windows pirates. The operating system featured Volume Activation 2.0, and a revamped activation infrastructure intimately connected with the Windows Genuine Advantage antipiracy mechanism. But the Redmond company's mitigations were taken down and Vista suffered the same faith as its predecessor Windows XP. One of the most notable releases that accompanied the operating system's RTM was Vista BillGates pirate edition. Still, Microsoft's official position is that the WGA mechanism in combination with the Reduced Functionality Mode triggered into pirated copies of the operating system had worked wonders. At an apex of the piracy phenomenon focused on Vista, Alex Kochis, Senior Product Manager for Windows Genuine Advantage, promised an update to tackle the 'timer crack' or '2099 crack', a workaround designed to bypass the operating system's activation mechanism, extending the grace period until 2099.

Did You Get Your Trigger Finger Ready?
Windows Vista is synonymous with the exclusive availability of DirectX 10. Microsoft did evolve the graphics infrastructure of its latest operating system in comparison with XP, but did nothing to backport DirectX 10. Before the business launch of the platform, at the end of November, the company was introducing the first games tailored on Vista: Halo 2 and Shadowrun. Both titles were designed to take full advantage of the advances in the DirectX suite of multimedia application programming interfaces. DirectX 10 in Vista is one of the most criticized Microsoft moves with the development of its Windows client. The company has been under a barrage of fire from both the gaming industry and community for succeeding to narrow down the the main platform for games down to a niche and for forcing upgrades to its latest operating system. Criticism only grew in intensity with a variety of compatibility issues between graphics hardware and the new operating system. A year after RTM, Halo 2 and Shadowrun did not prove the start of a consistent trend, and Windows XP with DirectX 9.x is still the main gaming platform worldwide. Meanwhile Microsoft is focusing increasingly on the delivery of DirectX 10.1 together with Windows Vista Service Pack 1 next year.

The First Viruses for Vista
Characterizing Vista at one point, Jim Allchin stated that the operating system was neither foolproof nor perfect. And security company Sophos came to support this view by revealing that Vista could still fall victim to legacy malware. W32/Stratio-Zip, W32/Netsky-P and W32/MyDoom-O were enumerated among the pieces of malware capable of compromising Vista. "There has been much speculation about whether Vista would render existing malware extinct, and the news is now in - it won't," commented Carole Theriault, senior security consultant at Sophos at that time. "While Microsoft should be commended for the huge security improvements it has made in Vista, running separate security software is still essential to eliminate the risk of infection. On top of this, cyber criminals will already be looking at creating Vista-specific malware. Users need to think carefully about whether their current solution is going to offer sufficient protection against such emerging threats, given that some vendors continue to experience problems adapting their software for the Vista operating environment."


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