When you try the RTM version of Windows Vista, you will notice that something changed between the last release candidate and the final product -- we added new sounds to the 45 places where Windows provides an audio cue to the user, including a new Windows Vista Start-up sound that was developed in collaboration with musician Robert Fripp.
If you have used Windows Vista, one of the most significant things you've likely noticed is the new Windows Aero interface. While Windows Aero may sound like just a cool name, it's actually an acronym that stands for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective and Open. Prior to RTM, the Windows Aero experience was intentionally incomplete. What was missing were the cool new sounds that were designed specifically for the Windows Aero experience. While the Windows XP sounds were appropriate at the time Windows XP was built, they were very 'Western' and literal (e.g., you could tell that the sounds were played by a piano and other western orchestral instruments). The Windows XP sounds were not consistent with the interface design goals of Windows Vista, so we overhauled the sounds to complement and blend with the softer, cleaner Windows Aero Glass theme and user interface elements for Windows Vista.
Sounds are obviously an important part of how people interact with their PC. The idea is to use your ears to get information from a sound without even thinking about it. For example, certain sounds on our PC tell us when we have a new email or instant message.
It was our goal for the sounds to be just noticeable enough that if they weren’t there you would miss them, but they’re subtle enough that they don’t get in your way. Just like the visual cues of the new Start button, the audio cues of the new sounds are "rounded" and "translucent." The default sound scheme in Windows Vista is intentionally much gentler and softer than in previous versions.
While I have personally been involved in the Windows Vista sound project for some time, the new sounds were only recently added to the builds (we had to save some surprises for people!), so I have only been experiencing them for a few weeks. What is amazing to me is how much the new sounds change my experience -- and I know it will do the same for you!
P.S. -- here are a few interesting facts about the new Windows Vista Start-up sound.
The Windows Vista Startup sound:
is made of dual ascending 'glassy' melodies played on top of a gentle fading Fripp 'AERO' Soundscape
has two parallel melodies played in an intentional "Win-dows Vis-ta" rhythm
consists of 4 chords, one for each color in the Windows flag
is ~4 seconds long, end-to-end
is a collaboration between contributors Robert Fripp (primary melody + Soundscape), Tucker Martine (rhythm) and Steve Ball (harmony and final orchestration)
would never have been possible without the great work of Microsoft's Steve Ball and his team. There’s an interview with Steve airing tomorrow morning (November 10, 2006) on NPR radio (we’ll post a link when it's available), if you’d like to hear more about these new sounds and the process of generating them.