With todays release of the Windows Vista February CTP (Community Technology Preview), Microsoft has publicly passed a key milestone on the road to launching its new operating system.
This release of Vista is "feature-complete", the company says, meaning that all of the fundamental capabilities that Vista will eventually offer are now baked in.
Development efforts arent slowing—the user experience will continue to evolve, bugs will get fixed, performance and compatibility will improve—but the basic shape of the operating system has been solidified, and from here on out we expect to see mostly fine-tuning rather than wholesale changes.
Weve been running this latest release, build 5308, for a couple of days now, getting a feel for its capabilities while Microsoft prepared to make it available to the community of MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscribers, TechNet users, and registered beta testers. Our expectations, set high by the quality of the previous December CTP (build 5270), were largely met.
We found this build of Vista is responsive and highly usable, though still far from bullet-proof (as is to be expected for beta software). Aside from some of the predictable problems with hardware-device support and still-buggy features, one particular problem was that Windows Explorer crashes frequently. To Microsofts credit, these crashes were hardly dramatic, since Explorer managed to restart itself and resume each time.
Microsoft is touting this release as an "Enterprise CTP", urging large corporate customers to begin testing it in controlled environments. The company says that the following CTP will be more oriented toward typical consumer users and will conclude the beta 2 release cycle. For this consumer CTP release, Microsoft hasnt announced a date more specific than the second quarter.
Given that the past few CTPs have appeared at approximately two-month intervals, sometime in April seems like a plausible guess. Microsoft is still aiming to ship Vista in the second half of 2006.
Take a look at these features and much more in our illustrated walkthrough of Vista build 5308.