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Windows Vista (codenamed Longhorn) is a major release of Microsoft Windows released to manufacturing on 8 November 2006 and general availability on 30 January 2007. It is the seventh operating system in the Windows NT operating system line, succeeding Windows XP and preceding Windows 7. It had one of the longest development periods in Microsoft's history starting in May 2001 and continuing until November 2006, since its development was reset in mid-2004.
This is the first version of Windows to drop support for systems without ACPI, as the operating system will not boot on devices that do not have the specification.
Planning for the Longhorn project started in earnest in May 2001, originally intended as a bridging release between Whistler and the later version of Windows codenamed Blackcomb (reference to the bar between two mountains in British Columbia, Canada). As development progressed, many features slated for Blackcomb became part of Longhorn, and employees jumped ship from other parts of the company, turning into a major version rather than the minor version it was initially planned as. After an initially quiet development cycle, the first build to leak publicly was build 3683, which contained a new theme called Plex, as well as the foundations for WinFS, a subsystem that aimed to bring benefits of relational databases to filesystem storage, and Avalon, a new vector-based user interface framework.
As development progressed before the reset, Longhorn became a heavily bloated and unstable piece of vaporware, with release dates being pushed back on several occasions. Many components were extended using the still relatively new .NET Framework and Managed C++. Stability increasingly became an issue as development progressed, and very few builds were released to the public as a result. Only two builds were distributed at conferences and to developers: build 4051 and build 4074. The last confirmed build prior to the development reset is build 4093, compiled on 19 August 2004.
Approximately four hours after build 4093 was compiled, Microsoft reset the development of Longhorn and started fresh by using a work-in-progress version of the Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 codebase, signifying the start of the Omega-13 period. Immediate post-reset builds were primarily focused on reintegrating features from pre-reset builds whilst maintaining stability, as a ban on .NET was imposed across a majority of the Windows source tree. Most of these builds are similar to Windows XP in the overall look and feel. Few builds from this stage of development have been released, officially or otherwise. Development of Longhorn continued, although many features originally slated for inclusion (such as WinFS and Castles) were delayed or ultimately dropped in order to produce a more realistic set of goals for the OS.
In April 2005, build 5048 was released to testers on WinHEC 2005 to show off the total progress made after the reset, which also demonstrably proved to be significantly more stable over previous builds, despite insiders raising some concerns over the then-current state of the operating system's lacking feature set at the time. The first leaked build after the development reset was 5098. Build 5112 (Beta 1) was released to the public soon afterward in July and showcased an early version of the Aero interface, as well as many stability improvements over Windows XP. Over the course of two years, many builds (which were dubbed by Microsoft as Community Technology Previews) were released to testers through a public beta program. The final build that was pushed out to public preview testers was Release Candidate 2 (build 5744). The RTM build was build 6000.16386, compiled on 1 November 2006 and released to manufacturing on 8 November 2006. The operating system finally reached general availability on 30 January 2007.
Several product names for the Longhorn project were presented to Microsoft in the lead-up to the final release of the operating system; the final name of the operating system, Windows Vista, was officially unveiled on 22 July 2005. Greg Sullivan informed Paul Thurrott about how the name Vista focused around the premise of wanting "the PC to adapt you" and aimed in "bringing clarity to your world"; the operating system was intended to be marketed with the terms "Connected, Clear and Confident". Microsoft vice president Jim Allchin expressed their enthusiasm for the product name, stating that it created the "right imagery for the new product capabilities".
The earliest known build to use the final name is build 5112, and the final builds to have any leftovers of the Longhorn codename are two compiles of build 5284, with the last traces being removed in January 2006.
Intel CPUs whose microarchitectures are based on Haswell or later are not supported on Windows Vista. Numerous issues relating to certain services or applications failing to start on the affected CPUs have been reported by various users, with extreme cases often leading to potential bugchecks. The KB4493471 update contains a new version of the HAL (hardware abstraction layer) that fixes most of these issues.
Windows XP, earlier operating systems and x86 versions of Windows Vista are not affected by the aforementioned problems.
The new Aero user interface has been introduced, which included large design changes to many of the built-in apps. Microsoft also encouraged third party developers to make their applications consistent with Aero, with the company for the first time producing a definite set of design guidelines that included advice ranging from icon design to text wording. Compared to previous versions, Aero icons are more skeuomorphic and realistic in design, as well as scaling better at higher zoom levels due to larger icon sizes being supported.
An important aspect of the user interface was the hardware-accelerated Windows Aero theme. This was made possible by the new Desktop Window Manager, a compositing window manager that works hand in hand with the also new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM). The compositing nature of DWM allows for eye candy such as Aero Glass or Flip 3D, but also prevents various rendering glitches that were common for previous versions of Windows. The exact appearance of Aero Glass can be further customized by toggling the transparency or changing the frame's color, which is not possible for themes that are not composited. Live taskbar thumbnails have also been introduced, which show the preview of a window when hovered over its button in the taskbar.
For systems that relied on older drivers made for Windows XP, Vista also included the Windows Basic style, which used the older XP-style theme engine, as well as still including the Windows Classic theme that disabled theming altogether.
The licensing subsystem has been completely rewritten in Windows Vista. This allowed Microsoft to define licensing restrictions for each SKU more easily and systemically using product policies, rather than hardcoding them in the kernel or using hooks for core system components. Product policies are used to limit the maximum amount of RAM, number of processors, as well as the availability of user interface options such as the Aero theme or transparency.
Networking stack has also been overhauled in Windows Vista. The new stack model includes IPv6 support, completely overhauled IPv4 and TCP/IP stacks and improves peer-to-peer connectivity.
Other notable changes include the introduction of Internet Explorer 7, a newly redesigned version of Windows Media Center, Windows Media Player 11, Windows Sidebar and Gadgets, redesigned games, Windows Boot Manager and more.
Windows Vista was shipped in a number of editions. Unlike Windows XP, there were no special editions for Media Center, 64-bit capabilities and Tablet PCs since these features were included in at least one of the consumer editions. Windows Vista also did not have a separate componentized embedded version, as Microsoft instead planned to release Windows Embedded 2009, which is based on Windows XP. Although the Business and Ultimate editions were also available for licensing on embedded devices (namely Windows Vista Business for Embedded Systems and Windows Vista Ultimate for Embedded Systems) as a part of Windows Embedded Enterprise product line, they are essentially the same as the base editions available on retail. Windows Anytime Upgrade was also introduced to allow users to easily faciliate upgrades across sucessive editions of Windows Vista.
The widespread sound scheme often attributed to Longhorn was never included in any official build, and originates from a Samsung-produced theme for Windows XP from 2003. The Windows XP sounds remain and are used in all pre-reset builds, with a few being swapped with Vista sounds between builds 5466 and 5840.16384.
The alleged Windows Vista Beta 1 startup sound is actually
WELCOMESEQUENCE.WAV used in the Speech Recognition tutorial in build 5308.6 and onwards. Likewise, an alternative interpretation of the final startup sound that is sometimes labeled as the Windows Vista Beta 2 startup sound is actually a jingle used in Vista Beta 2 Help video outros.
These builds are also referred to as Omega-13 builds.