To me, the fundamental change in Vista is the ability to run 64-bit programs, there was/is an earlier version of XP
called XP Professional x64
that inaugurated the 64-bit Windows era. The distribution, save the very basic edition, has either both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions for installation, or the 64-bit version CD
can be ordered for a small fee.
In order to run the 64-bit Vista you neeed to have a recent 64-bit CPU in your machine, and in order to have a working sound, network, and similar you need to have hardware in your machine that has 64-bit drivers written for them. If the distribution does not supply them for you, these are appearing fast for most of the recent hardware on the respective websites of the hardware manufacturers, luckily.
When you have your new shining 64-bit environment ready, what to run in it to make the transition worthwhile? If you are an ardent user of Photoshop, for instance, you'll be wanting to buy a 64-bit Photoshop for a noticeable performance improvement, but there's none available for the Vista platform. Many of the older programs will show compatibility problems, even in the 32-bit version; see here
for a list and a patch program. Another extensive list is maintained here.
There are some new security features that'll make life a lot harder for the "rootkit" type of viruses that insert themselves into the core services of the operating system. Also Vista being picky with privileges may be irritating, but enhances security. (The facility is suspendable.)
Gamers who are interested in the new DirectX 10 interface will have to transition to Vista as an XP
version will not be available. Improvements of some of the 3D sound interfaces have been incorporated.
The versioning of the and the respective cutting down of the functions of Vista is very bizarre, see here
Buying a 64-bit Vista upgrade for your standard 32-bit XP
is not possible, only a 32-bit Vista version can be installed "on top" of a 32-bit XP
installation . I think this is a bad marketing decision. A review of the upgrade policy is available here
and also here
To sum it up: if you're interested in a better protection and security services, Vista is your choice, but only in its "best" version. This version also supports multiple OS
interface languages for multiple users. For others, I feel the overall situation is such that an upgrade is not a good decision. Your next PC
will have Vista installed anyway, but you'll need to make sure exactly what version you'll be getting.
Vista is a major rewrite of XP
, and has a very sophisticated memory management, major security improvements, and a structure that lends itself easily to virtualisation, or running on other platforms than the PC
such as the Mac (only in the "better versions", again).
[Edited 2007-02-10 16:29:49]