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Vista Updated to Display Low-End Graphics Desktop

Reacting to complaints from users, Microsoft has quietly decided to give Vista users who do not have the latest display technologies a somewhat "cooler" user interface than what has been seen in the beta copies so far.

Sharp-eyed Vista watchers had noticed recent subtle changes in screenshots released by Microsoft as pointing to an improvement over the current "Standard" or "Basic" theme -- the look and feel that users who do not have hardware capable of displaying Vista's Aero glass-framed UI facade.

Instead what has been known as the "Scrap Metal" appearance, according to a posting on Microsoft's Windows Vista Team Blog last Thursday, will be replaced by a more graphically appealing one.

Users who want to run Vista's Aero UI -- definitely the chief eye-candy feature coming in the new operating system -- need to have hardware that supports what is known as the new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM). (This was previously known as the Longhord Display Driver Model.)

According to statements Microsoft made on its TechNet developers' site last winter: "To run Aero Glass, your graphics card must have a Longhorn Display Driver Model (LDDM). To get the full Vista experience, the graphics card needs a lot of memory (64MB minimum, 128MB recommended) and must support the complete DirectX 9 API."

Users who do not meet the minimum requirements will end up running the Basic theme.

"If you don't have a display driver capable of running WDDM you'll get the Windows Vista Basic theme which does not benefit from some of the more graphically intensive features such as desktop composition and glass window frames…[which] is a good, clean interface called the Basic or Standard theme, but lacking the glass window frames of Aero," says last week's blog post.

Unfortunately, the post does not provide a timeline for when the Scrap Metal appearance will be superseded by the new Basic theme, also sometimes referred to online as "Aero Express."

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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