Feeds

Compatibility woes derail Windows XP Visual Styles

The curse of the Appearance tab

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Business security measures using SSL

While complaining loudly about how Luna was supposedly aping Mac OS X's Aqua look this week, Apple advocates have missed an unwitting homage to Cupertino from Redmond. Microsoft appears to be mirroring the same tactical retreat from opening the Windows platform for theming, much as Apple made with its Appearance Manager four years ago. The two tales have uncanny similarities.

We first heard the rumour that Microsoft was dropping plans to "skin" Microsoft XP during Comdex. Now Redmond says it won't be releasing those theming APIs to developers. It's also likely that Microsoft will attempt to control the third party themes by bouncing digitally signed themes off the system.

To be fair to Microsoft, it never actually said that its 'Visual Styles' would be part of the final XP release; and to be scrupulously fair, Microsoft has never claimed that the gentle makeover offered by Visual Styles would offer those outlandish, full blown skins you can find over at skinz.org. Then again, it didn't exactly bust a gut to dispel those misapprehensions, either.

Look closely at the screenshots of the Windows XP Luna UI unveiled this week for a clue. Not one of the official screenshots shows a third party application being themed. Not even a Microsoft application:- you'll see a log-on screen, the start menu and the My Pictures folder, but no apps. According to beta testers that's because Visual Styles can't applications compatibility: with some UI elements such as Adobe's tabbed palattes, its simply breaks; and Luna is simply a Visual Style theme.

With themes representing a cosmetic feature, rather than a significant infrastructure enhancement, it makes little sense for Microsoft to break application compatibility. And with a significant legacy installed base of users, creatures of habit, both Apple and Microsoft have good reason to restrict the customisation that full blown skins potentially offer. Apple's Appearance tab, like um, Whistler's Appearance tab still maintains the same three windows controls in the same positions.

Apple touted Copland as a themable OS, but continued the idea into Mac OS with its Appearance Manager. Kaleidoscope changed its formats to be compatible with Appearance Manager, but Apple went cold on the idea. Appearance Manager still ships, but with the Platinum theme as the only option.

Related Stories

The Skinny on Skinning Whistler

How to survive Whistler

Windows to go 3D... but not in Whistler

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
Not appy with your Chromebook? Well now it can run Android apps
Google offers beta of tricky OS-inside-OS tech
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
NHS grows a NoSQL backbone and rips out its Oracle Spine
Open source? In the government? Ha ha! What, wait ...?
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.