Many of you out there will pretty much know the 5 Vista versions that will be available. On the consumer side of things, you have Home Basic and Home Premium, and on the business side of things, you have Vista Business, and Enterprise. Then we have Vista Ultimate, which, I see is abit of a blurred boundary. I say that because, think about it - not only does it have the funky consumer bits, like Vista Media Center, all the cool games, and obviously things like Ultimate Extras, but it also has the otherwise Enterprise-only feature known as BitLocker; our full-system drive encryption system. It can also be used within a corporate environment. That is why, in my eyes, Ultimate blurs the boundary between being used in the business environment, and being used in the home.
If you think about this from a small business point of view however, it's great in a way, because you could have a home office, and Vista Ultimate would not only serve your business needs, protecting your machine with BitLocker etc, but come 5:00pm, (or 7:00pm if you work as hard as me :-p) off goes the work side of Ultimate, and on comes the Media Center, which can now power your living room and home entertainment. It also has the benefits of parental controls, so you can let the other members of your family use your Ultimate machine, knowing that you can control and monitor access to everything, protecting them, whilst also protecting your own business data. Makes sense to me anyway :-)
So, the point of the post - those 5 versions of Vista aren't alone - there is another - namely, Windows Vista Starter Edition, which is being aimed purely at developing countries, and aims to impact impact education, communication, productivity and entertainment.
This concept isn't new - it happened with XP back in 2003, but the fact that people across the globe, who can't afford hardware that would run the other 5 versions of Vista, will get the chance to experience many of the features of Vista, I believe is a fantastic move. It will also come in numerous languages, and will come with many more tutorials, primarily aimed at people who may never have used a PC before.
Windows XP Starter Edition was released in 24 languages and was sold in more than 130 countries, but with the launch of Vista Starter Edition, were are expanding our initiative to make our products accessible to lower-income families in developing countries. It will therefore be available in 70 languages, and also feature an option that allows use of the operating system in different languages so, if, for example, a parent wants to use the computer in his or her native language but the household's children want to use it in English. Personally, I think that is an absolutely belting feature. As far as I'm aware, this is possible in the other versions too - I have the Spanish Language Pack installed on my machine too - and because I'm currently learning Spanish, it really is a useful thing to have, and best of all, it costs nothing more!
What kind of spec can you expect Vista Starter to run on? Well, get this: Vista will be able to run on a wider variety of processors than its XP predecessor, ranging from Intel's Celerons and older Pentiums to AMD's Duron! Retro or what! That means that Vista will run on a recommended minimum of 300mhz, but it is thought that it will even run on a 233MHz! It will run on a standard SVGA graphics card, and will require a great deal less RAM than the other versions. Now that's crazy!
Taken from CNet: "Also expanded in Vista is the suite of support tools designed to provide answers to even the most basic questions. "In a developed market, we're used to having a lot of high-end users, a lot of technology enthusiasts; and these are definitely not technology enthusiasts," Wickstrand said. "A lot of these customers had never used a mouse before." With Vista Starter Edition, people will have the option of tutorials in their native languages or of watching a demonstration of the mouse clicking its way through the task in question."
Some people would say that this is Microsoft's attempt at really taking over the whole world, but for me, giving people in developing countries the ability to use a product, however stripped down this version may be, like Vista, is a fantastic move for Microsoft and can only go to benefit the end users.
Whenever I go out and talk to Microsoft Partners, I try to keep the demo'ing (not sure that's a word) to a maximum, and the slides, to a minimum, as I really feel that more can be gained by seeing a product in action, rather than reading about it on a slide. I normally start my demo's with a quick chat around how Vista enables users to not only find information (a-la Windows XP and Desktop Search), but use information quickly and efficiently (not a-la XP and Desktop Search :-p). This leads nicely into a discussion around the start menu, and how Vista removes the need to 'hunt and peck' for applications, so instead of having either lots of shortcuts on the desktop, or taking an age to find programs by clicking randomly, I can now just type what I'm looking for in the Start Menu search box:
Let's be honest, its not the easiest thing in the world to find something that is deeply buried like Disk Defragmenter, but in Vista, that just isn't an issue anymore.
So, finding programs and launching them is therefore incredibly easy, and thus a great deal quicker to perform, meaning you can spend more time using the applications, as oppose to finding them.
But this isn't the only way Vista works to make things easier, and quicker for the user. As you use Vista, you'll notice that certain programs that you use regularly will open a hell of alot quicker than they ever did on XP. When I show this demo, launching Word, PowerPoint, Media Player and so on, people see it, and immediately question the power of my machine. Fair enough, the specification of the machine will have an impact, but a technology called SuperFetch is where all the magic comes from.
Now, when i use this term in a demo, I can see the glazed look on their faces, as they are secretly thinking that that is something you would say to a dog before you throw the ball about a mile away, but no, it is a technology in Vista, and it works. Nuff said.
Well, not quite nuff said. As found here, over on Information Week, you could almost call SuperFetch the 'Mystic Meg' of Windows Vista, due to the fact that it predicts what you are going to do on your system. Spooky hey!
According to the article: "As part of a long term set of projects, we want to teach the computer to learn from users to make the machine more proactive," says Eric Horvitz, a principal researcher with Microsoft's R&D as well as the president-elect of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. "We want to use the system's idle time to make things punchier."
Having spoken to some Partners about this, it really does work. Programs like Word, Outlook, and Media Player, for me, open incredibly quickly now, and it's thanks to SuperFetch. SuperFetch is however, limited: "According to Horvitz, SuperFetch can accurately predict up to the next three applications that the user is likely to launch at any given time" but still, 3 is better than none right?
So, the future seems bright for this particular area of Vista, with researchers particularly keen to extend SuperFetch-like predicting to actions within individual applications. "In Outlook, when users read a message, they're likely to go forward [to the next] or back or open the message. The broader notion is that there are patterns within application usage we can take advantage of. We can predict what people are probably going to click on next."
Don't say i never give you any useful information! :-)
These may be useful to some of you out there :-)
Windows Vista: Build More Secure Applications
Find out how Windows Vista makes it easier than ever to build applications that are more secure, reliable and manageable. Tune in to see how you can create user-experience breakthroughs that improve usability and enable greater relevance to the work users do. In this series of free webcasts, we cover Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation, Windows CardSpace and XAML.
Microsoft Office System Webcasts: Expert Tips to Enhance Your Skills
Find out about the Microsoft Office system and productivity software such as Microsoft Office Outlook, OneNote, Visio and Project by taking part in live and on-demand webcasts. These online and interactive webcasts are an effective way for you to learn how Microsoft products and technologies can help you be more efficient.
Exchange Server in Depth: Master Concepts and Optimize Your Server Environment
Keep your Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 skills and knowledge up-to-date with tips and best practices and also preview Exchange Server 2007. Our Exchange Server experts cover in-depth topics such as operations, mobility, migration, management and security, providing you with the tools and knowledge to help optimise your Exchange Server environment.
Best Practices for Deploying Windows Vista
Find out how to streamline your large-scale Windows Vista deployment using best practices learned by Microsoft IT during the beta phase of Windows Vista. We also explain how to use the new Windows Imaging Format (WIM) -- a file-based disk-imaging format - to install Windows Vista.
Using the Microsoft Office 2007 System for Business Intelligence
Find out how you can use the Microsoft Office 2007 system to enable a business intelligence environment in a familiar, easy-to-use cost-effective manner. We will discuss functionality that is built into the Office 2007 system and demonstrate the business intelligence features.
Web Development with Windows Vista Internet Information Services 7.0 (Level 200)
Web developers have a reason to be excited about the new Windows Vista operating system since it ships with the latest Microsoft web server release, Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0. Find out about the highly anticipated server features IIS 7.0 includes for a client operating system
Podcasts: Download Audio of Webcasts and Hear Them on the Go
Listen to Microsoft webcast and media content whenever and wherever you want. You can stream or download these audio podcasts in your favourite podcast software or mobile device, and quickly and easily access content with RSS feeds. Microsoft podcasts are free and do not require registration-just click and listen.
Windows Vista: Virtual Lab Express
In this 30-minute Virtual Lab Express, you will configure new security features in Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Vista. You can also watch our live and on-demand Windows Vista TechNet webcasts.
2007 Microsoft Office System: Virtual Lab Express
Get a quick, hands-on overview of the 2007 Office system. In just 30 minutes, familiarise yourself with the new Ribbon bar, use the mini-toolbar and see how you can take advantage of Live Preview and the Gallery in the Office 2007 user interface. Also, watch our live and on-demand Office 2007 system webcasts for IT professionals and download Office system podcasts.
Exchange Server 2007: Virtual Lab Express
Get a quick, hands-on overview of Exchange Server 2007. In just 30 minutes, familiarise yourself with the Exchange Management Console and Outlook Web Access, and work with compliance and records management rules. Also, watch our live and on-demand Exchange Server webcasts and download Exchange Server podcasts.
Well, if you do fancy getting your hands on some nifty new technology, then here are a few Beta's that have recently been made available, for your downloading pleasure:
Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Now Available for Evaluation
Make your evaluation period as efficient as possible: Downloading the software automatically registers you to receive relevant resources for the discovery, assessment and deployment stages. You'll receive links to webcasts, e-learning, virtual labs and more.
Register to Be Notified of Windows Server "Longhorn" Beta Availability
Windows Server "Longhorn" beta is coming soon. Pre-register now to receive an email notifying you about the beta version availability. In the meantime, find more information on Windows Server "Longhorn".
Download System Center Operations Manager RC2
Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 can simplify the management of your IT infrastructure with end-to-end service management that's easy to customise and extend to improve service levels across your IT environment. It automates redundant tasks and provides intelligent reporting and monitoring to increase efficiency and enable greater control.
Gear Up for Windows Vista Migration with Hardware Assessment Beta Program
Windows Vista Hardware Assessment is a software tool designed to help business customers and partners quickly assess their PCs' hardware and device driver compatibility for Windows Vista upgrades. This network-wide assessment tool provides detailed and actionable assessment and recommendation reports.
Personally, I would definitely get on the 'Longhorn' list, as this is going to be one major product when it releases, especially when the Virtualisation side of things comes around too. It goes without saying that you should be gearing up for the Windows Vista Migration with Hardware Assessment Beta Program. I regularly get asked questions around hardware and Vista, so to be able to receive recommendation reports and assessments would be of interest to many businesses out there, I'm sure.
Firstly, an apology - it's been a while, and I know you think the Internet is a lonely place without my ramblings ;-), so I'm back on the blogging as of today, and have a huge amount to talk about, so here goes!
Those boys over at TechNet are gonna be busy over the next few months - they are running some pretty cool sounding events, which I would definitely recommend you taking a peek at!
16th May 2007 - Reading: Overview of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 with Eileen Brown
At this session we will discuss how Exchange gives administrators more control, provides 'anywhere access' to your inbox, and in-built security and protection mechanisms. We'll also cover the new Exchange Management Console, and look at how Windows PowerShell, the new administrative interface, provides a rich command-line experience. We will finish with a look at the significant client-side improvements and transport rules.
25th April 2007 - Reading: Planning and Deploying Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Part 1 with Eileen Brown
Find out what SharePoint Server 2007 has to offer. At this session we will present the concepts of topology, server roles and network conditions. We'll also provide an overview of administration features, introduce the three-tier administration model and explain various security topics.
24th April 2007 - Manchester: Introduction to SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services with Melville Thompson
At this event we'll look at SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence and the components and features that make up the Reporting Services platform. At the end of the session you should be able to create and publish reports to enhance your organisation's business knowledge.
31st May 2007 - Reading: Advanced SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services with Melville Thompson
Find out about the advanced techniques for building reports with Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services and the Microsoft Visual Studio-based Report Designer. Other topics at this event include using the built-in expression language, report parameterisation and supporting multiple data sources. Receive a walk-through of sample reports and discover tips and tricks for using the Report Definition Language (RDL).
These events are all free to attend, and are definitely worthwhile, so get yourself a reservation now, to avoid disappointment!
Digital Rights Management, or DRM if you are an acronym lover, has caused quite a stir over recent weeks, most of it aimed in the general direction of Windows Vista and it's ability to handle Blu-Ray and HD-DVD content in particular. So, what better way to clear up any of these concerns, than with a Question and Answer session, with Dave Marsh, a Lead Program Manager responsible for Windows' handling of video (that must be a long business card!).
I'll leave Nick White, of the Windows Vista Team Blog, to introduce the session:
"A conversation has cropped up since the recent publication of a paper scrutinizing how Windows handles digital rights management, especially for HD video. I've since looped back with Dave Marsh, a Lead Program Manager responsible for Windows' handling of video, to learn from him the implications involved and to learn to what extent the paper's assertions are accurate. The following is an article Dave has put together to address the misconceptions in the paper, followed by answers to what we expect will be the most frequent questions in the minds of our customers."
Without further adoo, check out the full 20 questions over on the Windows Vista Team Blog.
Now I know most people, when they think of a big event in February, will normally say Valentines Day, but, believe it or not, this February, there is a different event taking place, and it's solely aimed at our Small Business Partners out there. This event is the SBSC Small Business Symposium 2007.
So, what's it all about, and why should you bother?
It's about Small Businesses, and you should bother because I said so! Ok, seriously though, we all know this is a huge year for Microsoft, what with that little launch taking place in just a few days now, and a huge number of amazing products on the horizon, and as Microsoft Partners, this represents a huge opportunity for both you and your customers.
So, how is it going to work? Well, essentially, senior Microsoft speakers will provide an update on our plans and outline areas of investment for the next 12 months. You'll be able to discover first-hand, the opportunities available for your business and put your questions, as I'm sure you'll have plenty, to all our speakers in an open Q&A.
In the afternoon of each day, rather than hear from more Microsoft speakers, you'll be hearing from successful small business partners from across the UK, sharing their secrets on things such as "How I market my company", "Changing to a managed services business" & "How to work with your local small business infrastructure." – very much the partner community at work! Trust me, this part of the day is incredibly worthwhile. I'm lucky enough to have had the chance to go out into the communities and have some pretty good conversations around Vista, Office and the like, along with Small Business issues in general, and to be able to bring as many of these communities together into one place is a fantastic opportunity to boost your business (and social!) network, and hopefully, your sales. This really is your chance to hear and learn from some of the best in the business in an open, friendly environment. There'll also be plenty of time for informal networking, including drinks and nibbles at the end of the day.
Now I do have some bad news, and I'm sure you'll be devastated, but I won't be at the event, as I'm in the US of A, trying to win a huge amount of money! More on that some other time.... :-)
The events are taking place at the following locations:
Microsoft Campus, Thames Valley Park - Thursday, February 1st
Edinburgh - Tuesday, February 6th (already sold out, but you can join the waiting list)
Manchester - Wednesday, February 7th
The agenda is as follows:
8.30am - Registration9.00am - Welcome & Small Business Specialist Community Update9.25am - Opportunities for partners in the SMB space9.50am - Keynote (Scott Dodds in TVP, Steve Haddock in Edinburgh & Manchester)10.20am - Q&A with Executive Panel11.00am - Break11.30am - EVO update for small business12.15pm - New Products update including OfficeLive & AdCentre1.00pm - Lunch2.00pm - Partner-to-partner sessions3.30pm - Break4.00pm - Partner-to-partner sessions5.30pm - Drinks & Networking
All that is left for me to say is...REGISTER!