Microsoft: Vista Apps Must be 'Cool'

In an open letter posted on MSDN, Microsoft's Windows chief Jim Allchin called on developers to start building "cool" applications for Windows Vista, promising "new opportunities on a scale you haven't seen since Windows 95."

Allchin, who is retiring after launch, says that barring any last minute quality issues, Vista is on track to reach consumers in January. Analysts are predicting that the new operating system will be installed by 200 million people within the first 24 months, the quickest adoption of any Microsoft OS. "Millions of people will be looking for applications," Allchin noted.

Five years in the making, Windows Vista will bring to the table a number of fundamental changes inside and out, but it is up to developers to take advantage of them. Microsoft knows that applications are what make an operating system, and if users are stuck with their bland, legacy programs, there won't be much reason to upgrade.

In addition, since the release of Windows XP, the end-user experience has become more important on both the Internet and the desktop. Web sites are utilizing AJAX and other technologies to provide a more interactive experience, and Apple has pioneered making the desktop PC actually fun again with Mac OS X.

It's not enough for things to just work anymore, and Microsoft is endeavoring to meet these new expectations with Vista. A revamped user interface and underlying infrastructure means a completely new class of visually-striking applications can be built, Allchin says.

"People will just love these applications - from new DX10 games to cool Sidebar gadgets to new rich visual enterprise applications. Some of these apps are mind-bogglingly cool," he wrote. "And, some of the best work is being done by small companies that many of you probably haven't heard of, so the opportunities for changing the world are clear."

Vista will include the .NET Framework (specifically, version 3.0), currently a large download for Windows XP users, as well as traditional Win32 APIs. A new release of Visual Studio is slated to make Vista development even easier, and Microsoft's new Expression suite of tools will aid developers even further starting next year.

The first step, says Allchin, is to make sure an application is compatible with Windows Vista. Because of kernel and security changes, as well as a new graphics model, some programs will need to be updated. Applications should also be tweaked to run as a standard user, no longer requiring an administrator account.

"If you want to ride the wave we're creating with Windows Vista, the best way is to have your application ready by the time we ship!," he added. "And that is very soon."

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