Families Spend Two Years 'Living With Windows Vista'

"When we got it, it was called 'Living with Longhorn' -- that was the code name for Vista," Cameron explained. "You had to be pretty tech savvy to use it -- it wasn't really user friendly."

But Cameron was dedicated to the program and determined to help make Vista more user-friendly than any Windows program before it -- even at the risk of upsetting his wife.

"I took the machine to Orlando on vacation with my family and my wife almost killed me," he said jokingly. "But I was working with Microsoft on a problem and I felt that I had given them my word."

Like a dotting dad, Cameron gushes when asked what he thinks about the final product.

"It's very exciting knowing that I made a difference in the way it works," said Cameron. "Now that I've been released to talk about it, I'm excited to tell everyone I can about it."

Room With a Vista

This isn't the first Windows program in which developers have reached out to the public for help in crafting the final product. In fact, it's pretty common for software makers to conduct a "beta test" -- a test of the product when it's usable, but not complete -- that's open to the public.

The idea is to put it in the hands of the product's target audience and see how -- and if -- it works.

But the length of the "Living With Vista" program, coupled with the credence placed on user feedback makes it pretty unique in the software space and Microsoft is hoping that will lead to a more intuitive experience when the long awaited operating system is finally unleashed on PC market.

Obviously Microsoft does go around and shows off early betas to us, but we're in the industry," said Lance Ulanoff, editor of reviews at PC Magazine. "But there's no downside to doing this. I don't know how I feel about them trotting these families out right now though -- it seems a little silly."

Having spent some time playing around with Vista, Ulanoff attests that whether it was the involvement of the families or not, something seems to be working -- even if he does compare it to the company's arch rival.

"It's elegant, it's smooth and it's rather familiar in that some of it seems a little 'Mac-esque' -- and I mean that in a good way," he joked. "Vista's geared towards users who may still be uncomfortable with technology -- who are still a little intimidated by PCs."

Miner believes the inclusion of families like the Abbotts and Regans will translate into a more positive experience and ultimately a successful and well received operating system.

"We're very excited about the fact that it's going to be released," said Miner. "We're also very excited about the improvements the families have helped us make."

Windows Vista will be preloaded on most Windows-based personal computers after its release at the end of January.

If you're happy with your current Windows computer and want to upgrade to Vista, Microsoft provides a small program you can download and run to make sure you're machine is compatible with the new software available on their Web site.

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