Stardock has unveiled its first beta of WindowBlinds 5 and with it, glass effects for Windows XP users.
At Microsoft's recent Professional Developer's Conference, the new Windows Vista UI was officially unveiled. Code-named Aero, the new user experience boast a new "glass" user interface in which the title bars and borders are semi-transparent.
The effect on Windows Vista is possible thanks to Microsoft's new advanced 3D desktop compositer which allows the desktop to leverage the latest 3D hardware. It was believed by many (including many at Stardock) that such effects could not be done on Windows XP with any kind of adequate performance.
Stardock claims that beta 1 of WindowBlinds 5 achieves performance on the same level as the current beta of Windows Vista in terms of delivering glass effects. WindowBlinds 5 also is able to deliver glass effects on relatively low-end hardware (though it still requires a video card with at least 32MB of video memory).
Stardock is careful to say that WindowBlinds 5 on Windows XP can only give a "slight taste" of the "cool" things that will be able to be done on Windows Vista.
"It's important to remember that Windows Vista is based on the latest 3D hardware capabilities. The entire desktop -- the entire environment -- is a 3D surface," said Brad Wardell, President of Stardock and also a Neowin.net contributor. "We recommend that our customers migrate to Windows Vista once it becomes generally available. But in the meantime, they can enjoy some of the eye-candy of Windows Vista on Windows XP."
Stardock has indicated that WindowBlinds 5 is significantly faster than previous versions when using the same visual style. In addition, it eliminates the requirement to have a dedicated process or in other words, WindowBlinds 5 runs as a native part of a Windows XP system, there's no additonal process used to manage it.
WindowBlinds 5 is currently only available to users of Object Desktop.
Screenshot: WindowBlinds 5 in action
View: Object Desktop home page