New images of Windows Vista released

By John Ostrowski

The latest build of Windows’ newest operating system, Vista, has been leaked to the public, Slashdot.org reported Wednesday. The report was based on a post made on the Neowin message boards. The post included a link to the Windows’ Vista home page and several screenshots of the new operating system.

There are a few things that are noticeable from the screenshots, which can be accessed by following the link from the Slashdot story. The screenshots show a revamped Windows Media Player (version 11, though it is billed as version 10). It’s not a drastic revamping by any means, but it does look a little slicker. In my opinion, iTunes is head and shoulders above the current WMP, and will probably continue to be better even after Vista comes out. It’s hard to go more than a week using iTunes without receiving a message informing you that there is an update ready (iTunes 6.0 was just recently released). Unlike with the pricey iPod, I completely welcome frequent updates of free Apple software. It’s nice to see that WMP is continuously becoming slicker. Competition will keep Apple on the ball with its iTunes software.

The second noticeable difference is Internet Explorer 7 Beta, which shows tabbed browsing under the address bar. It’s fairly obvious what it is copying here, the hugely successful Mozilla Firefox.

What started out as a small-time phenomenon among the more in-the-know Internet users, has transformed into a more widely accepted browser. Firefox registered over a million downloads within the first 24 hours of its release of version 1.0 in November 2004. By Sept. 20 of this year, version 1.0.x. had been downloaded 90 million times. By April 2005, it was estimated that Firefox had a 10 percent market share in North America.

Why was Firefox so successful? Well, maybe the most simple element was tabbed browsing, a concept that would be unfamiliar to anyone who has never used anything but Internet Explorer. Basically, instead of crowding your taskbar with windows of your browser, new Web sites are opened in new tabs, displayed under the address bar. However, this is only one very simple explanation for Firefox’s wide success. Any devout Firefox user could rattle off a list of their favorite extensions, which are add-ons to the browser developed by individuals all over the world. This aspect of Mozilla’s browser is available because of the fact that it is an open source. Extensions can be used to block those annoying ads that appear within Web sites, to browse the Internet using a series of mouse gestures, to provide customized news, weather and email updates, and a variety of other extremely nifty features.

So far, the only thing we can tell from the screenshots is that Internet Explorer will feature tabbed browsing, which is good, but really is not so much an advancement as a catch-up. Basically, every other Internet browser features tabbed browsing. Apple’s default browser, Safari, has it, as well as Opera. It’s nice to see that Microsoft has finally decided to join the rest of the web-surfing world with its next version of Internet Explorer. What’s saddening is that even though so many other browsers had tabbed browsing, the vast majority of the web-surfing populace was completely ignorant to this ingenious feature. Firefox, the most widely-used of the alternatives, only had a 10 percent share. Apple is still working it’s way back into the public’s good will in terms of PC’s, so Safari has not reached that many people; add to that the fact that anyone with a Windows machine is subjected to the dreck that is currently Internet Explorer.

I hope that Vista is a turning point for Windows. I was a Mac user back in the day, but switched to Windows when they started to saturate schools. Even though that made everything compatible, I regret making that switch. My next machine will be a Mac, but I can still hope that Windows will improve because it will (a) keep the pressure on Apple to keep releasing top-notch hardware and software, and (b) a disturbing amount of people will still be buying Windows machines and life should be easy for them even though they have not made the smartest choice they could.

John Ostrowski is a junior in Communications. His column appears on Tuesdays. He can be reached at [email protected]