Another Windows Vista build is about to arrive via Microsofts Community Technical Preview program.
The program hasnt managed to meet its initial goal of monthly releases, but it has offered members of the Windows ecosystem more opportunity than ever to participate in the development of Windows.
The road from "Whistler" to Windows XP, in contrast, offered precious few pit stops—two beta releases and a couple of release candidates leading up to an RTM that was to form the foundation for the Windows desktop for five years to come.
With a public testing process so abbreviated, theres little wonder why so many IT administrators opted to wait for a first—or even a second—service pack before deployment of Windows XP.
On that note, its good to see that deployment will be a focus of the February CTP build.
In particular, were hoping to see signs of Vistas promised image-based installation scheme, in which the bulk of Windows is copied at once to disk in the form of an image file.
This should make for much faster install times compared with the current method, in which system files are copied individually.
The CTP builds eWEEK Labs has tested so far have taken about an hour to install, much more time than XP now requires.
However, while image-based deployment options and the CTP program are definitely positive steps toward improved Windows development and deployment, they arent big or bold enough to keep pace with competitors—in particular, those developing operating systems around the Linux kernel.
Its hard not to compare Vistas development and deployment processes against those of the other OSes in development that were tracking at eWEEK Labs, such as the Debian-based Ubuntu 6.04 and Red Hats Fedora Core 5.
Both of these systems move forward not in quarterly, monolithic chunks—as Vista does—but in daily, individual packages that can be easily debugged.
Its likely too late for Microsoft to modularize the development and deployment of Windows in time for Vista, but wed love to see the firm emulate these nimbler deployment approaches in the Longhorn Server timeframe.