Microsoft is gunning to release the new build some time the week of August 14, testers said. That build may be 5506 or a slightly later build, they said.
On the Welcome Screen in Build 5506, Microsoft is including direct download links for Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live OneCare, Windows Live Toolbar and Windows Live Desktop Mail, according to screen shots of a Vista Ultimate 5506 build obtained by Microsoft Watch.
In addition, Microsoft is including Windows Live Messenger as an option selectable from the Start Menu of Build 5506, according to another screen shot of the new build. Its not clear whether Microsoft is completely replacing the Windows Messenger instant-messaging component that has been integrated in previous Windows builds with Windows Live Messenger, but it appears so.
Microsoft officials would not comment on Build 5506 and declined to say when technical testers would receive a refreshed Vista test build.
Windows Live is a growing collection of software-service add-ons for Windows. Microsoft officials said there are about 20 such services, but a recent tally of Windows Live services and sites indicates the real number is in excess of 40.
Windows Live Messenger is the successor to MSN Messenger, Microsofts free instant-messaging service. Windows Live OneCare is the paid, subscription-based backup and security service the company launched in late May. Windows Live Toolbar is a collection of Windows Live search, antivirus, mapping and other utilities similar to the Google Toolbar. Windows Live Desktop Mail is a program that allows users to view mail from all of their various e-mail accounts in a single pane.
Microsoft is expected to distribute an interim build to a pre-selected group of technical and Technology Adoption Program (TAP) testers only. This build will likely be the last test build that Microsoft will release externally before it rolls out Release Candidate (RC) 1.
RC1 will be a near-final build of Vista that Microsoft is planning to make available to millions of testers. According to a recent posting on the Windows Vista team blog, Microsoft plans to make RC1 available to all two-million-plus participants in the Beta 2/Customer Preview Program, as well as to other interested parties.
Testers had been expecting Microsoft to deliver RC1 in late August. They are now predicting Microsoft will roll out RC1 in the first half of September. Publicly, Microsoft officials have not promised anything beyond a "Q3 2006" delivery date for RC1.