I’ve said a few things about Windows Vista – some good, some bad. I haven’t necessarily looked at recent beta builds, though. Today was the first day of WinHEC, a conference that’s not really geared towards gearheads like us as much as it is the gearheads who make Windows do what it needs to do. It’s a big Microsoft show, and this year it’s all about Windows Vista. They released a Beta 2 build to the greater Windows community, encouraging everybody to grab a copy, take a look, and submit feedback. At last year’s WinHEC, I went on record by stating that they were a long way from home as far as the user experience and interface was concerned. A year later, I’m looking at the latest “Beta 2” on my IBM Thinkpad and am quite impressed with what I see in the OS so far. It’s not yet enough to make me jump up and down and install it on every computer known to man, but it’s enough to make me believe that Microsoft will have a good product on the shelves next January. They’ve got a long road ahead of them, and I’ll be sending all my feedback on UI and experience directly to Jim Allchin. I had dinner with him tonight.

For some unknown (but welcomed) reason, Jim invited a handful of Windows enthusiasts (Fanatics?) to dinner at a nice Seattle restaurant this evening. I was lucky enough to be there, and was planning on it even before interviewing Jim earlier in the day (with the short and exclusive Jim Allchin interview already online). I was completely honored to sit directly across the table from him, and he knew that those of us in the group were quite vocal with our beliefs and feedback. Jim’s the kind of geek who revels in that kind of room, and he proved his salt ten times over this evening. I have a whole new found respect for his position and responsibilities. He personalized Windows tonight more than any desktop application ever could. He took time out of his hectic Vista schedule to listen to what true “Windows Ultimate” users had to say about the impending release of Windows Vista. We’re all helping make it a better product, but I only want to make it a better product because of people like Jim – and his amazing attitude towards the Windows audience.

Tomorrow, he has a meeting with the Windows Ultimate team – and he asked me (personally) to send him a list of things that I knew had yet to be completed in this build of Windows Vista, as well as some items that should be included in a “Windows Ultimate” edition. Oh man, where do I start?! In fact, I should ask you: what kind of features and functionality would YOU want to see in Windows Vista. Let me know and I can certainly pass along whatever feedback I receive. I’m even telling Jim Allchin about PowerToys and killer tools that I couldn’t live without in my Windows environment. Who knows if they’ll actually do anything about the things I report, but it’s nice to know that the feedback will be going somewhere other than the bit-bucket. He even remembered me from my TechTV days, which was quite humbling. Certainly, I’ve taken a different position on Windows Vista today. I don’t work at Microsoft, but I’m going to do my best to find every possible UI oversight before that sucker hits RTM in a few months.

[tags]vista,microsoft,beta,winhec,desktop application,feedback,gearheads,ibm thinkpad,jim allchin,windows vista,windows ultimate edition,windows desktop[/tags]