Tomorrow is the day Microsoft's next-generation operating system, Windows Vista, is released to the general public.  In a recent polling among my friends and co-workers, I have found only two people planning to upgrade before the end of the year.


I've been paying very close attention to Vista and what it can offer.  As a software engineer that works mainly with Microsoft products, I've had to keep myself up to date and aware of the directions that are being made in terms of security platforms as well as the various subtle changes that invariably cause an application to respond unexpectedly.  On top of this, I've been working towards yet another certification (the MCAD).  While none of the course material or exams cover Vista, the people I've been studying with have been working with this OS for the last year throughout the various alpha and beta releases.

Personally, I like what Vista brings to the plate.  The platform is more secure.  The interface is a bit more intuitive for everyone.  The experience is also geared more towards letting people see what they're working with, rather than inferring what they're working with.  When viewing directory contents, rather than see hundreds of files with similar icons, people can now see thumbnails of the document or file.  This will make things easier for quite a number of people who may not have strict habits regarding file management on their computers.

However, I don't think I'll be making the move to this new operating system any time soon.

I did give Vista's Beta 3 and two RC's a try on my notebook here, as well as test my machine for Vista operability using the Upgrade Tool provided by Microsoft, but it's just too soon for me.  I have extreme confidence in Microsoft's ability to deliver great products the first time, and Beta 3 worked flawlessly on my computer despite it's incomplete state.  However, in order for me to make the most of this OS, I will be forced to upgrade to a new machine.

I'll admit that I can run Vista in a simpler mode, which would allow me to have the security and stability of the new OS but without the Aero interface (which I could easily live with).  My biggest constraint is with possible DRM issues.  Unfortunately, the Digital Rights Management system was not fully implemented in Beta 3 (the only release I tested for an extended period), so I did not see the results of this protection software.  Lots of people have issued complaints about the technology (either because they have lots of illegal media, or because they're going off hearsay and think that RIAA and MPAA will be advised any time you see copywritten material on YouTube), but I've not yet seen this system in action.

This is a pretty important area for me as I do download lots of asian media.  I enjoy TV dramas from Japan and Korea, as well as documentaries from all over the world.  Most of what I watch and listen to cannot be easily obtained in North America.  But on top of this, I do have mp3s that were ripped from my CDs.  Will any of these files be impacted because they do not contain any DRM tags?  I found no problems in my testing, but these tests were carried out on pre-release versions of the OS.

I've heard from many industry sources saying that my media will be fine, and audio or video quality will only be down-sampled on super high quality media such as BlueDisc or HD-DVD movies.  But even when downgraded, the media will still play at DVD-level quality according to Microsoft.

This would be more than enough for me, considering how my LCD is 15.4" in size, and I have no ambitions to buy a television any time soon.  But I am always looking to future-proof my media.  I am also curious to see whether some predictions will come true, though.  Will Vista become the next Windows ME?

I don't think so.  But only time will tell whether the general public is on board with everything that Vista offers.  Until then, I'll stick with XP Pro.