Windows 7 will be called…Windows 7

windows logo Microsoft announced yesterday that the next version of Windows will go by its codename when it is released, a first for the operating system. The successor to Windows Vista will be called simply, Windows 7:

Over the years, we have taken different approaches to naming Windows. We’ve used version numbers like Windows 3.11, or dates like Windows 98, or “aspirational” monikers like Windows XP or Windows Vista. And since we do not ship new versions of Windows every year, using a date did not make sense. Likewise, coming up with an all-new “aspirational” name does not do justice to what we are trying to achieve, which is to stay firmly rooted in our aspirations for Windows Vista, while evolving and refining the substantial investments in platform technology in Windows Vista into the next generation of Windows.

Even though I’m somewhat surprised by the decision, I think it’s a good one.

Most people call Windows XP just “XP” and Windows Vista just “Vista”. By the time Windows 7 comes out, it will have been ten years since we’ve had a version with a common moniker that includes the name “Windows” (of course, that would be Windows 2000). I suppose it’s possible that people may refer to it as just “Seven”, but I think “Windows 7” will be used more commonly. That’ll be good for the overall brand.

I also like the idea of evolving and refining Windows Vista, though it’s less clear how consumers will make that connection based on the name alone (I doubt most people think of Windows Vista as version 6). I think Windows 7 strikes a nice balance between “Windows Vienna” (or whatever other aspirational name was thrown around) and “Windows Vista R2”.

I wonder if this is a new trend for Microsoft? They also just released Silverlight 2 (not Silverlight 2.0). Maybe the next release of Office will be called Office 14 (they are skipping 13 due to superstition).

A version number is simple and easy-to-understand. It’s immediately clear that 7 came after 6. And removing the minor version (7.0) makes it less geeky. It also divorces the software from a yearly release cycle, which means Microsoft can focus on quality before making a new release.

I hope this decision is a sign of things to come for Windows 7. Simple and effective.

Microsoft launches 'I'm a PC' commercials

microsoft A couple weeks ago we saw the first commercials in Microsoft’s new ad campaign. They featured Jerry Seinfeld and were quite polarizing – either you liked them or you didn’t. Unfortunately for Seinfeld fans, he didn’t last long. Microsoft’s new commercials went live last night, as described by TechCrunch:

The three new non-Seinfeld commercials, which the New York Times described earlier this week, still don’t talk about Vista features. But they do try to break the stereotype that cool and interesting people use Macs, and everyone else is on a Windows machine.

The ads features a number of Microsoft employees and include email addresses for each. The star, Sean Siler, has an autoresponse to his sean@windows.com email address.

TechCrunch has embedded the three commercials in that post if you’d like to check them out. You can also see a longer version and a really funny comic at Long Zheng’s site.

I have to agree with Mary Jo Foley – I’m a little surprised that Microsoft is going after Apple. The “Mac vs. PC” ads have been incredibly successful and are very widely known, so I think directly responding to them is an incredibly daring thing for Microsoft to do. That said, I really like the new ads. They make Apple seem a little elitist.

I like this approach better than the Seinfeld commercials, and I look forward to seeing what Microsoft has planned next. Their marketing story is finally starting to get interesting!

By the way, I first noticed the new commercials were live when “I’m a PC” became a trending topic on Twitter Search. If you’re not already a regular user of Twitter Search, you should be!

Microsoft's new ad campaign: off to a bad start?

The first ad in Microsoft’s new $300 million campaign was launched yesterday during the NFL season opener. My first impression? What a horribly bizarre ad. Featuring the legendary Jerry Seinfeld, the commercial appears to be an ad about nothing. The Seinfeld fan in me loves that, but the Microsoft fan-boy in me was expecting so much more. I wasn’t the only one apparently – Twitter, FriendFeed, and other sites were abuzz with disappointment and confusion.

The ad campaign is being created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a well-known firm responsible for some very successful campaigns, such as Burger King’s Subservient Chicken. I’m not sure they are off to a very good start though if Microsoft felt the need to explain things:

In an email we’ve obtained from Microsoft SVP Bill Veghte to all employees, he talks about the goals of the campaign. The overall goal is to inspire consumers and “tell the story of how Windows enables a billion people around the globe to do more with their lives today.” This first phase, he says, “is designed to engage consumers and spark a new conversation about Windows – a conversation that will evolve as the campaign progresses, but will always be marked by humor and humanity.”

If you say so Bill! I was expecting something more along the lines of the “Flat World” ads we saw back in July.

Chris Baskind is among the few willing to say the new ad works:

The campaign debut isn’t about selling Windows, trying to out-irony Apple, or reversing the fact that Microsoft’s strongest current marketing image is the strangely lovable PC Guy in those Mac spots. It has one purpose: to brand Jerry Seinfeld as the new face of Microsoft.

I’m not so sure I buy that argument. I am willing to give the campaign time to unfold, however.

Make Windows XP look like Windows Vista

You might think I’m crazy, but possibly my favorite thing about Vista is that it’s black and glossy. You’ve got to admit that Vista is an attractive looking OS! In comparison, Windows XP just looks terrible. The first thing I usually do is switch the default blue theme to the silver one. Even still, I have often longed for something better.

Recently, I came across BricoPack Vista Inspirat Ultimate 2. Quite the mouthful, but it’s really quite simple – download and install it, and it transforms your desktop into a Vista theme. Normally I wouldn’t give something like this a second glance, but I was feeling particularly curious one day, so I tried it. Of course, I created a restore point first, and I strongly recommend you do the same (here are the instructions). I didn’t run into any problems though.

I have to say, I love what Vista Inspirat did. My taskbar and windows are black and look like Vista. The “Start” menu has been replaced with the Windows orb. The icons, cursors, and sounds all mimic Vista. Two small programs run in the background to provide extra effects – Y’z Shadow adds a nice border and drop shadow to windows, and UberIcon provides some nifty animation for navigation. And best of all, I haven’t noticed any performance issues. The only two problems I have are that the user icon doesn’t show up in the start menu (it’s just a white box, big deal) and that “screen artifacts” appear somewhat more regularly (you know, parts of a window not refreshing right away). Otherwise it’s great!

One thing to note is that Vista Inspirat includes a utility called RocketDock, but it is an out-of-date version. I’d definitely upgrade to the latest version as it is more stable and includes some useful new features. RocketDock is pure eye-candy:

Looks like Mac OS X! It works quite well as an application launcher though. All you need to do is drag shortcuts or files to the dock.

One other thing you might need is the UxTheme Patcher, which enables you to install custom themes like Vista Inspirat. I say might need, because I already had it installed, so am not sure if it is strictly required. Here’s the download if you have Windows XP SP3.

Have fun, but be careful – backup anything important and make a restore point first!

Windows Vista Ultimate on the Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet PC

I’ve had my tablet for few years now and I just love it. I don’t know why these things haven’t taken off in the marketplace! They’re a bit more expensive than normal laptops, but it’s definitely worth the extra cost in my opinion. Mine is a Portege M200 from Toshiba (a “convertible” tablet). It came with the first release Windows XP Tablet PC edition. That worked okay, but SP2 definitely made it more usable. Technical specs include a 1.6 GHz Intel Centrino package (only 802.11b though), 512 MB of RAM, and a 60 GB hard drive.

As you can imagine, I filled that hard drive pretty quickly. And even though I had formatted and reinstalled Windows XP once already, it was pretty slow compared to the other computers I use on a regular basis. I started thinking about what I’d do with it. I really didn’t want to lose the tablet, but it was becoming less and less usable for me.

So I decided to upgrade it. I had purchased Windows Vista Ultimate back when it RTM’d, but I hadn’t installed it anywhere. I’ve literally had the DVD sitting on my desk for over a year, just waiting to be used. Why not on the tablet, I thought?

Windows Vista Ultimate on Toshiba Portege M200

As you can see, I got it working! Here’s how I did it:

The first step was to upgrade the hardware. The hard drive was old and small, and 512 MB of RAM was definitely not enough to run Vista. I also wanted to add a new wireless card that used 802.11g. I went to Memory Express and got the parts: 2 GB of Kingston PC2700 RAM, a new Seagate 160 GB hard drive, a D-Link AirPlus wireless card, and a Samsung external DVD-Writer. I also decided to get the extended warranty (which I don’t usually). Total cost: $450.

The reason I bought the external DVD drive was because the Portege M200 doesn’t have a built-in drive. So I plugged it in and started the Vista setup, only to find that it was really slow. I stuck the Windows XP disc in just to make sure, and yep, still really slow. I searched for something to fix the problem, but came up empty. The drive worked fine on my desktop, so it had to be the firmware on the tablet or something.

I looked for another solution, and eventually found this post by Ryan Adams. His solution is to use something called TFTP to install Windows Vista over a network connection. All you need is a computer with a working DVD drive that you can share, and a crossover cable. His instructions are excellent, so if you need to install Vista on a machine that doesn’t have a DVD drive, give it a shot. That’s how I got mine working.

The install was painless and pretty quick, and I breathed a sigh of relief when Vista booted up successfully. I was almost there! The next step was drivers. I found this page on the Mobile PC Wiki really useful. You can use some of the original M200 drivers. Additionally, you can install the M400 software updates that Toshiba has released for Windows Vista: one is the “Value Added Package for Windows Vista” and the other is the “Tablet PC Extension for Windows Vista”.

driverI didn’t mess around with the video too much at this point, and instead downloaded Windows Vista SP1 from MSDN and got that installed.

Since then, I have been messing around with the video drivers. I was determined to get Aero Glass working! I read Scott Hanselman’s post and was a little worried – I’m not sure he’s ever gotten it to work. Anyway, I eventually got the NVIDIA 97.59 driver installed and working properly!

It took me a while to figure out, but I can’t use transparency. If I turn on transparency and then open three or four windows, the Desktop Window Manager service crashes and everything reverts back to Vista Basic. If I turn off transparency however, Aero Glass works just fine. Here’s the non-transparent look:

not transparent

And here’s what it looks like with transparency enabled:

transparent

Having the transparency is nice, but it’s not a deal-breaker. And I’d much rather have Aero Glass than Vista Basic (which is ugly and pale blue by default).

Today, I finally ran the Windows Experience test:

vista rating

That’s pretty much the same as I’ve seen around the web for other Portege M200 owners who have upgraded to Vista. If Toshiba and NVIDIA released better drivers, I’m sure the rating would be much higher. Ah well, they want you to buy new machines I guess.

Based solely on my perception of how well the tablet performs, I’d say it’s much faster and more responsive with Vista then it ever was with XP. Surely the 2 GB of RAM and new hard drive help, though. The one negative is that the battery lasted far longer under XP. I’m talking like an hour and half longer!

That said, I am really glad I decided to upgrade my tablet to Vista. It kicks ass! I’ll save that for another post, but if you’re an M200 owner wondering whether or not to move to Vista, my advice would be to do so. The Tablet PC functionality in Vista easily outshines XP, you won’t regret the upgrade.

Vista SP1 coming early after all!

winlogo Well you can’t say that Microsoft doesn’t listen. Last week they announced that Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista was released to manufacturing, but that it wouldn’t be available until mid-March for anyone. Today, they essentially backtracked on that strategy:

We’ve heard the feedback and I want to update you on our plans and progress for making SP1 available to our beta participants, our Volume Licensing customers, and our MSDN/TechNet Plus subscribers…

Mike Nash, the author of the post, goes on to explain that Volume Licensing customers will receive SP1 on Friday, and that MSDN and TechNet Plus subscribers will have access “later this month.” Broad availability is still slated for mid-March.

It would have been better if they had just put the download up already, but this is a step in the right direction at least.

Read: Windows Vista Team Blog

Windows Vista SP1 RTM

winlogo This is very, very strange. Microsoft announced today that Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) has been released to manufacturing, which should mean that it’s ready to go. Yet for some reason, they have decided to not make SP1 available until March:

In mid-March, we will release Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Update (in English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese) and to the download center on microsoft.com.  Customers who visit Windows Update can choose to install Service Pack 1.

The post talks about some driver issues, but as Long Zheng mentions, it doesn’t sound like they are going to use the extra time to fix those issues. You would think they could at least put the download up at the Download Center. I’m really hoping that SP1 will have a positive impact on performance and battery life and I’m eager to install it!

In other "RTM news" today, Windows Server 2008 was also released to manufacturing! That’s about on schedule. Don’t forget the launch events are happening later this month.

Read: Windows Vista Team Blog, Windows Server Division Blog

Outlook 2007 on Vista with RDC is driving me crazy

I have written about Outlook 2007 here before, usually in relation to performance. The hotfix that was released back in April has mostly fixed that problem for me, but I have a new problem.

Outlook 2007 on Windows Vista is a piece of shit when it comes to accessing it through Remote Desktop.

I haven’t been able to take a screenshot of this yet, but essentially it renders the computer (or at least the remote desktop session) unusable. Outlook 2007 works fine for a while, but minimize it one too many times, and the next time you try to bring it up the screen is washed out with windows appearing all over the place and everything is just garbled. You can’t see the start bar either, so figuring out how to close it or get rid of it is problematic. I have to close the session and sometimes restart Outlook on the actual computer before it’ll work again.

I don’t understand what the problem is. I have tried messing with all of the RDC settings, and I am running the latest version. All the updates are installed, on both machines. The only application I have this issue with is Outlook 2007. A search on Google for ‘why does outlook 2007 on vista suck using remote desktop‘ didn’t return anything helpful either. Heh.

It’s driving me crazy. I love Outlook, but the latest version has been a real pain in the ass at times.

Any suggestions on this one? Any softies out there reading this? Help!

Video Stuff: Vlog Blind Date, Mesh 07 Contest, Soar & Wow

Post ImageHere are a few interesting video-related posts I have come across in the last day or so:

Vlog Blind Date
This is a really funny and well done video featuring Justine Ezarik. She goes on a blind date with…it’s a surprise! You have to watch to find out. The video was made to promote JumpCut from the looks of things (and with their help, evidently).

The mesh Video Contest
Want to go to mesh for free? Have a talent for creating great video? Then this contest is for you! All you’ve got to do is submit a video that captures the essence of Web 2.0 – “whatever that means to you.” If you win, you get flown to Toronto for free, with the hotel and conference tickets all taken care of. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

Comparing “Soar” and “Wow”
In this post, Long Zheng takes a look at two commercials: one for Windows XP, and one for Windows Vista. It’s quite amazing how different they are. While both are good, I think the Windows XP one is better.

Windows Vista Exploits Exposed!

Post ImageI was going to post something last week about the “fatal flaw” found in the speech recognition feature of Windows Vista, but I never got around to it. And now, thanks to Long Zheng’s brilliant post, there is simply no point. Here’s a snippet:

Last week, the media went schizophrenic over the Windows Vista speech recognition ‘loophole’ which allowed anyone with a microphone to have full access over your computer. Granted, you must also be partially-deaf, turned your speaker volume to full, carefully place your microphone next to the speakers, turn on speech recognition and train your speech profile as if you were someone else.

The rest of the post is quite funny, and discusses other possible exploits such as the mouse and keyboard, and Visual Studio. Definitely worth a read!

Read: Long Zheng