Microsoft will release just one more build of Windows Vista for testing before the code goes gold, said Brad Goldberg, the general manager for the Windows client business group.
That build will be made available to a limited group of between 50,000 and 100,000 testers in October, and follows the interim Vista build that Microsoft released on Sept. 22.
Goldberg declined to say if this final test build would be known as Release Candidate 2, adding that the company is focused, from an engineering perspective, on targeting the group of testers from whom it most wants one last set of feedback.
Goldberg, who was on a cross-country tour in late September designed to get the message out about the business value and benefits that Vista brings, also said Vista is on track for availability to businesses via volume licensing in November, with broad general availability to consumers set for January 2007.
Microsoft said it expects 10 times more seats of Windows Vista to be deployed at launch, with deployment within the first year being twice as quick as that for any other version, and business customers deploying it faster than for any other Windows operating system release, he said.
"We have differentiated how we are delivering the product for customers, which is evident in the clear differentiation we have between the SKUs for business and for consumers. Business will be a big focus for us for the remainder of this year, and we will then start talking a lot more on the consumer side next year," Goldberg said.
Windows Vista has been built for businesses, from the very beginning onward, and is also providing the tools and services that businesses need to help them adopt the operating system earlier than they have in the past, he said.
"From the earliest stages of Windows Vista engineering development, we had a core group of customers who would come up every few months and spend a few days with the team, reviewing early builds and giving feedback. That was then expanded to 500 TAP [Technology Adoption Program] customers to get business requirements into the product," he said.
The number of TAP customers for Vista is 10 times larger than for previous versions of Windows, he added.
Microsoft also looked at what it needed to do with tools, like the application compatibility toolkit, which was historically developed after the product was finished. In Vista these tools were developed in conjunction with Vista, he said.
Microsoft has also learned some lessons from its experience with Windows XP and the primary inhibitors to Windows XP, which included issues with internal and third-party application compatibility, the perception that the cost outweighed the perceived benefits to be gained, as well as the hardware compatibility issues.
"This was all impactful for us, and we took that feedback and drove it into the Vista development process in terms of how we thought about engineering and working with customers to address the issues during the development cycle," Goldberg said.
Vista is also designed to address the key changes taking place in the overall business environment, which includes unprecedented volumes of data available to users on their machines, the corporate Intranet as well as the Internet, estimated at more than 170TB, he said.
But this volume of data often resulted in efficient searches, and IDC research shows that the average information worker spends 3.5 hours a week looking for information they never find. They also spent three hours a week creating content that already exists, he said.
On the hardware front, there is a notable shift toward laptops in countries like Japan and the United States, and most corporate data resides on computer hard drives, he said, noting that the growing number of laptops increases the risk for the loss of corporate data.
"Last year alone some 6,000 laptops were lost in the U.S., and research shows that 80 percent of company data is stored on a users PC," he said.
There has also been an increased focus on the regulatory environment and the accompanying need for compliance, while security breaches are also on the rise.
"Windows Vista and the value it brings is squarely aimed at all this," Goldberg said.
The new search capabilities in Vista will probably have the single biggest impact on users in terms of how they use their PC, with the new search pane allowing them to search and access the data in their documents, e-mails, and files more quickly, recover deleted and overwritten files, as well as simplify remote access to their applications.
Vista also brings a new default "sleep" state, where the computer moves in and out of this mode in just a few seconds, while the length of time for startup and shutdown has also been reduced, he said.
Asked about the concern that Vista would require new hardware to run, Goldberg said that is not the case.
"Much of the experience will be available to those with older hardware, even that which is not able to run the new Aero user interface," he said.
Businesses also tend to buy new hardware every year as a way to manage their desktop refresh.
"I believe that most organizations will look at Windows Vista initially on new machines, followed by upgrading existing machines and wipe and load," Goldberg said.