Connectivity has become an essential feature of computers and their applications, both in the home and at work. Modern organizations universally use networked computers with other computing devices for a variety of functions, including:

  • The traditional role of the network is to share and manage computing resources, such as public files, networked printers and scanners, repositories and databases, and enterprise applications. Extensive research is currently being directed toward how to share the idle processing power of networked computers.

  • Networks also provide the backbone for distributed applications essential for business operations and special projects, such as email, scheduling, shared version control, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and customer relationship management (CRP). These applications are essential to knowledge workers.

  • The Internet has led to a rapid growth of business-to-business financial and logistical transactions. Examples of this category include online catalogues and automated quote systems, order processing and value chain management, and industry exchanges and clearinghouses.

  • Networked computers are increasingly being used as a hub to integrate and manage all forms of communication, including email, real-time chat, web conferencing, and telephony.

  • Increasingly, networks are being used to support the presence of off-site employees (sometimes called telepresence) and the formation and operation of virtual teams. Virtual teams allow the agile and efficient use of scarce employee resources regardless of geographic, cultural, or legal boundaries.

Residential connectivity to the Internet has become commonplace in industrialized societies and home networks are rapidly increasing in numbers, leading to the following uses of home computers:

  • The home computer has become a primary means of communication through the use of email, instant messaging, blogs, newsgroups, and VOIP telephony.

  • It has also become a primary source of information and entertainment, alongside newspapers, periodicals, and television. Gaming is an area that has seen rapid advancement, including the use of networks for multiplayer engagements.

  • The Internet has enabled the boom of business-to-consumer commerce. In its purest form, for digital offerings like music, the entire process (including marketing, sales, purchase, distribution, and support) can be performed over the Internet.

  • With the advent of home networks and the convergence of electronic devices, the computer is increasingly being used as an entertainment hub for the creation, recording, storage, processing, and distribution of a wide variety of multimedia content, including television and radio broadcasts, movies, music, and animations.

  • Telecommuting is increasingly blurring the distinction between work, traveling, and home, allowing employees to have an instant virtual presence (telepresence) from anywhere.

Windows Vista® was designed to be the next generation platform for connectivity, providing native infrastructural support for all of these business and home functions. It delivers a foundation for secure and reliable connectivity so that connected solutions can be more easily created. Windows Vista enables anywhere, anytime connectivity for one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many communication topologies. The Windows Vista wave provides improvements to the basic network infrastructure, Web-based applications and services, and to the range of available collaborative technologies.

Wireless connectivity in both the workplace and at home has been growing in the last few years. This change brings greater emphasis in Windows Vista on wireless protocol support, quality of service guarantees, wireless security, and roaming profiles.

Network Infrastructure Improvements

These increase the security, reliability, and efficiency of the network and provide a better platform for developers to build upon. These improvements include a reengineered network subsystem, support for new Internet protocols, completely new network APIs such as the Windows Filtering Platform (WFP) and Winsock Kernel (WSK), and new management features such as Network Diagnostics Framework (NDF) and Network Address Protection (NAP).

For more information, see Network Infrastructure Improvements.

Connecting Technologies

Microsoft provides a range of technologies that enable applications to communicate over open Internet-based technologies, particularly based on the HTTP protocol. Increasingly, this type of communication is used to enable direct application-to-application communication with little user interaction, a use which is commonly termed "Web services". Windows Vista provides a range of Connecting Technologies to support message-based communication over open Internet protocols, across a wide range of hardware and information exchange requirements, including:

  • Developer Story Windows Communication Foundation — the new .NET Framework 3.0 provides a highly-productive infrastructure for message exchange in a secure, reliable, and interoperable way. Based on open protocols, it combines the best of many older Microsoft technologies to provide a flexible and extensible approach to building service-oriented applications.

  • Web Services on Devices — extends the Web services approach to resource-constrained network-connected devices, such as PDAs, computer peripherals, computing appliances, and consumer electronics. Microsoft will supply the APIs and tools to enable both device manufacturers and client applications to communicate between each other using Web-based protocols.

  • .NET Framework Communication — although the Windows Communications Foundation represents the main thrust of Microsoft’s future support for managed Web services, the .NET Framework contains other communication technologies (ASP.NET, .NET Framework Remoting, Message Queuing, and Enterprise Services) that have specific domain applicability and large installed bases.

  • Developer Story Internet Information Services (IIS) — in addition to providing most of Microsoft’s Web service technologies (including ASP.NET and Windows Communication Foundation), it represents a powerful, flexible, extensible platform for creating and managing Internet-enabled solutions.

Collaboration Technologies

Businesses and organizations increasingly depend upon efficient and pervasive collaboration between individuals and groups to perform essential processes and tasks. Collaboration will also become more important to individuals as they form ad-hoc online groups for entertainment and cultural purposes. Windows Vista provides advances in Collaboration Technologies, such as:

  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Roadmap infrastructure improvements reduce the complexity of adding P2P functionality to applications, including better support for identity and contact management, peer naming and discovery, peer presence and session initiation, and mesh communication. Many of these improvements apply to the existing Windows XP collaboration architecture, although Peer Channel is a collaboration extension of Windows Communication Foundation.