Do recent Windows versions provide any form of antialiasing for fonts, and if so is it usually activated? Thinking about it I can't recall ever seeing a Windows installation with antialiased fonts. (Though I don't use Windows on any regular basis so my sample may not be representative).
or by downloading a controller. In WinXP and IE6 it is off by default. But in IE7 it will be ON by default, and will be on regardless of the OS setting.
ClearType=ON improves type rendering by incredible factors, partly because Windows-hinted fonts know about ClearType. Everyone should turn it on now, and the decision to default it on in IE7 is an excellent one.
I disagree. ClearType is wonderful - I use it at home and a t work - but there is no way it should be forced on the user. The reason is that it is meant for LCDs not CRTs! There will always be some people using these, who should have ClearType turned off.
Windows actually has two methods of smoothing fonts. Windows 98 (or was it XP?) introduced a system that only kicks in when the fonts go over a certain size, like large headers on websites. You can switch this off and choose ClearType instead, which applies to most fonts at all sizes.
Also, you don't need to visit a website or download anything to turn on ClearType in XP. The option is there built-in for you. I would recommend the ClearType Tuner though, for setting the contrast used.