The new Windows will be called Windows Vista. From now on the name Longhorn will not be used by Microsoft anymore, but it's possible that you'll encounter the name Longhorn in the two upcoming beta's.
This article contains information about how Windows Vista will handle 2D and 3D graphics and information about Vista's new features.
Vista uses the Windows Graphics Foundation, or WGF. WGF 1.0 will use DirectX 9.0c as its primary interface, but Vista will also have the Next-Gen 3D API build in. You can see it as DirectX 10, but it's officially called WGF 2.0.
One of the important features of WGF is the Longhorn Display Driver Model (LDDM). It is possible with LDDM to install a new graphics driver without even rebooting your system. LDDM will ship in two stages. The first, called basic, supports current generation graphics hardware: shader model 2.0 and 3.0 capable hardware. The second stage of LDDM, advanced, will support hardware features that ship at the same time or after Vista is released, but will work with the new features in WGF 2.0. Because of the competitive way of graphics hardware development, we'll probably see advanced LDDM capable hardware before Vista is released. The current Windows XP driver model is still supported, but will be frozen going forward.
Advantages of Vista above XP:
- run more than 15 graphical applications at the same time instead of 2
- complete control manager to optimize system resources
- every window in Vista will be a 3D surface (when opening My Computer you're actually watching an interactive 3D texture)
- applications can be bigger than graphic card memory currently allows (advanced VRAM simulation)
- split your monitor into four pieces and play games at the same time while listening to your favourite music with Winamp, watching a movie with Windows Media Player and posting spam on the Guru3D forums
- Vista uses DirectX (WGF) to draw the Windows Desktop
- you are able to rotate your windows in a 3D way, so you can push it to the background, put it upside down or squeeze it in a corner. This way you'll be able to have more windows on your screen at the same time
- Vista supports up to 160 open windows at the same time
- there are four different graphic modes for Vista (2GB/256MB/128MB/64MB textures)
- new motherboard BIOS'es will be integrated into Vista itself
- some of the BIOS settings can be changed within Windows and you won't even have to reboot to apply the new settings
- with XP, users got a lot of freedom to configure and tweak their system but Microsoft says that with Vista the 'more advanced' users will get the freedom to customize and tweak even more features of Windows that weren't possible in XP
Now some very important info about gaming on Vista:
- there will be NO graphical difference between an ATI or nVidia card anymore, the only difference will be overall performance
- WGF 2.0 allows GPU processing without CPU intervention
- The Xbox 360 uses some of the technology Vista will use to handle games on the PC
If you want to play a game, Vista will disable every component of your computer that isn't needed by the graphical interface and unloads the Windows Desktop (it's like running a game in MSDOS).
While it's true that the graphics technology for Vista is very advanced, it's also true that Microsoft is trying to have a wide array of hardware specifications. By the time Vista actually ships, almost every new PC should be able to support the user interface and Windows Graphics Foundation.
That doesn't mean users will need GeForce 6800 Ultras or comparable cards. As we've seen, the user interface will support four different qualities, the most basic should even run on most of today's hardware. If you want the full Vista experience, you'll want a heavy system and graphics hardware, and lots of memory.
Windows Vista will most probably be released in the second half of 2006.
- Don't think of buying a computer today and use it to run Vista next year on the highest settings
- Memory is the most important component for future computing (graphics and system memory)
Extreme minimum requirements:
1.4 GHz processor
256 MB memory
64 MB videocard
7200 RPM HD 2 MB cache
For the highest settings (speculation):
3.6 GHz processor
2 GB memory
1 GB videocard with WGF 2.0 support
15000 RPM HD 1 GB flash memory
The highest settings requirements are only for software and graphics developers.
Update 1: VISTA CHANGES PC INTO GAME-CONSOLE
Dean Lester, the General Manager of Windows Graphics and Gaming says Microsoft is making the gaming-functionality of Windows Vista the same as a modern game-console, but wants to keep the advantages of PC gaming like high-end graphics and sound hardware, online communities, community support and downloadable content.
Update 2: COMPUTERS WITH DIFFERENT LEVELS
Microsoft is working together with nVidia, ATI, AMD and Intel to develop pre-configured computers with different levels, low, mid and high range hardware-configurations for different sales prices. PC's with a certain configuration of CPU, videocard and memory will be split in different levels. Because of this, choosing a PC for gaming gets a lot easier, because fast computers will get a higher level. The system requirements on game-packages will have a level requirement, so you can see if the level of your computer is high enough to handle a game.
Update 3: EASY TO USE
With Vista Microsoft wants to eliminate the long installation procedures that PC games have. Installing and playing a game should be as easy as with a console. They too are developing a special driver manager, so you won't have any problems with different drivers. This means no problems with flickering textures, stuttering and crashing anymore, because the drivers will be fully controled by the graphics interface and because of this system nVidia and ATI can develop and test their drivers for problems within a few seconds. Updating drivers and BIOS'es will get a lot easier because Windows Update will get a special feature that automatically checks if your hardware is up to date and automatically updates your drivers, BIOS'es, the Vista graphics interface and even updates for the most important feature of Vista, WGF 2.0.
Update 4: FUTURE GRAPHICS
Microsoft is going to implement Pixel and Vertex Shader 4.0 support into the new graphics interface, so in the near future after Vista is released there doesn't have to be another newer version of WGF to be released. Epic has announced that their Unreal 3 Engine will support future pixel and vertex shader versions that are going to be implemented when the Unreal 3 Engine is near completion.
Update 5: SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS AND RESOURCE USAGE
Vista uses a lot of memory, but it uses it for a good reason. Vista doesn't even have loading times when you're using Explorer, Internet Explorer or any other primary Windows component. The big amount of memory thats being used isn't just for the textures but it contains every important file thats needed by Explorer when running a primary Windows application. When you start a game, the Vista graphics interface immediately unloads everything out of the memory that isn't needed by your 'game hardware' (video, sound and physics card) such as the 3D Windows Desktop. Users are able to change the way Vista reacts when they boot up a game or 3D application. WGF is fully customizable to your own needs. For example, you can keep the Windows Desktop loaded and play a game at the same time, or if you have a fast system run both in split screen. To do all this fast loading and unloading you need to have fast memory and ofcourse a fast harddisk. But here's the problem. The harddisks we use today are far too slow (12000 RPM is not fast enough) and will be a huge bottleneck when loading huge amounts of files into the memory. That's why Microsoft and Samsung are working on a new Hybrid hard drive that will use 1 GB flash memory as a buffer. They want to take part of the load of the spinning drive and to lower loading times and boot times drastically. Vista will fully support this technology. Microsoft and Samsung are still working on a way to unload files very fast from the harddisks flash memory. Next year Microsoft will start a huge marketing campaign for new hardware they are developing and they will give an update on the development of the Hybrid harddisk. When using a Hybrid harddisk in a mid-range computer of today (2 GHz, 1 GB RAM) you will have boot-times of about 5-10 seconds. Imagine how fast a high-end PC in late 2006 will be.
Update 6: ICONS
In Vista icons will be completely changed. Documents don't have a icon anymore that shows the file-type, but it shows the first page of the document. Folder-icons will show you the inside files by using 3D technology. You'll see the files coming forward in a slideshow while you're watching the folder.
Update 7: STABILITY
Vista will be the most stable OS ever. Microsoft admitted that it had problems with stability with Windows ME and XP (without SP), but they really are making work of making Vista unbelievably stable. Microsoft even has made three special teams that researched Vista and future technologies for two years. After Vista is released, Microsoft doesn't even have to release any updates to make Vista stable, because Vista manages itself automatically and disables processes that can make your computer unstable and are unneeded by the applications you're running.
Update 8: SECURITY
Vista will have a better internet security. Instead of using very advanced ways to protect your computer, they're using somewhat primitive ways to keep users away from your harddisk. For example, Vista is able to completely halt every type of data transfer from your computer to any hardware component and is able to pause your internet connection when there is happening something suspicious. Microsoft is developing software together with Symantec (Norton Antivirus) to detect virusses the moment they reach your harddisk. Vista will be able to quarantine certain parts of the harddisk and make sure a virus gets automatically removed (using Norton Antivirus).
Update 9: HARDWARE FOR VISTA
Some hardware will be specially made for Vista. Before Vista will be released in 2006, Microsoft will start the biggest marketing campaign ever, not just for the most advanced piece of software ever developed by more than 80.000 people (not only Microsoft), but also for the hardware that will be developed especially for Vista. As you've read before, there will be special harddrives, but there will also be special videocards that will have to work constantly at 100%, extra fast memory and new dual-core processors to support the new multi-application technology Vista uses. For Vista Hyperthreading is a old technology. Vista will take full advantage of it, but compared to the new technologies of the processors that are being developed it doesn't really help at all. There also will be newer soundcards to support the high sound quality that is possible when Vista is released. All hardware manufacturers are doing their best to get their new hardware finished before Vista is released. Microsoft promised that the prices won't go trough the roof.
Update 10: MULTIPLE INTERNET CONNECTIONS
Vista supports a new technology that has been developed. With this technology you're able to use multiple internet connections (max 4) at the same time. For example: You have an DSL internet connection with a download speed of 100Kb/sec and a cable inter net connection of 80 Kb/sec. And you're downloading a file from a different user who has an upload speed of 140 Kb/sec. When you're using those two internet connections, the DSL connection starts to download 100KB/sec and the left 40 Kb/sec gets downloaded by the cable connection. This means you'll always be downloading at top speed, as long as you can afford multiple internet connections. Because of this you're able to play up to four different games at the same time online with just one internet connection.
Update 11: COPY PROTECTION
Microsoft has teamed up with Disney and a lot of music labels to improve copy protection for movies, music and software using digital rights management functionality in Vista. Microsoft said they will use heavy copy protection schemes, so users won't be able to copy digital media. This may scare of a lot of consumers, but Microsoft doesn't worry about that, because eventually everyone will go Vista (their words). This means no Warez anymore.
Update 12: VISTA AND THE XBOX 360
Microsoft has announced that the Xbox 360 controller will work on Windows Vista too. They did this because they want the game mode of Vista to be an upgraded version of the Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 and Vista both will use a new technology that makes games run at the fastest speed possible. Because Microsoft is the 'leader' of the Xbox and Windows, they made it possible to connect your Xbox to your PC and download special content and updates for your games, without having to subscribe anything. The Xbox 360 uses the new multiple internet connections technology seen in Update 10. Downloading files can take some time, but thats not a problem anymore, because now you can play a game offline or online and download certain files at the same time! This is one of the advantages over the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Revolution. The XBox 360 has a lot more advantages, but the reason for all of that is the company thats behind the Xbox, Microsoft, the most powerful software company in the world. They made sure Sony and Nintendo couldn't make use of these new Windows technologies. So if you want compatibility between your console and your PC you'll have to buy a Xbox 360. It looks like Microsoft again has found a way to eliminate the competition.
Update 13: GAME ENGINE, API AND VIDEOCARD ARCHITECTURE
As you've read before, Vista will use its own API to handle 2D and 3D graphics. Microsoft knows that this will cause a lot of compatibility problems and thats why they are talking to the videocard manufacturers. The new videocards ofcourse need to support the new graphics system and the manufacturers have to adjust their videocards' architecture so it will take full advantage of Vista. Because of this the support for OpenGL won't be as good anymore, because all the new videocards will be specialized in WGF graphics. Because of the new WGF technology, game engines need to be adapted to Vista as well. This means, that engines that will be used in the near future, like the Doom 3, Source and Unreal 3 Engine, will have to be fully compatible with WGF and the new videocard architecture.
Update 14: VISTA AND G70 VIDEOCARDS
The 7800 GTX and all other upcoming G70 videocards support the Vista 3D Desktop Engine. The G70 videocards also are fully optimized for WGF 1.0 and LDDM. Because the G70 cards support LDDM, VISTA will take control of the videocard's BIOS and driver. This means that Vista will automatically be able to change settings for optimal gaming performance. The LDDM feature is a part of WinSat (Update 15). The G70 videocards don't support WGF 2.0, but this technology won't be used in the near future. With a G70 videocard you don't have to worry about using Vista, because you'll only get advantages.
Update 15: OPTIMIZATIONS
As you've read before, Vista will have a game mode which will bring gaming on the PC to new levels. Gaming will be the same as on a gameconsole. No bugs, crashes, slow loading times or stutters anymore. This is possible because Vista will use a lot of new technologies that have been under development for years. WinSat (Windows System Assessment Tool) is one of those technologies. WinSat is a sort of benchmarking tool which analyzes your system's hardware and generates a score for every critical component in your computer. It gives your processor, memory, videocard and harddisk a score and with those scores Vista will find a balance between the different components and will make sure that no piece of hardware is a bottleneck. This means that if your videocard is too fast for the CPU, the left over power of the videocard (which is being bottlenecked) will be used for background services. You can choose between two optimization modes; general office applications and games. Vista has another useful feature which hasn't been named yet. When you boot up your computer this feature will detect if there is a hardware change. If there is a change it will rebuild the hardware configuration. With this feature it will be possible to replace a motherboard without any driver issues.