Microsoft made the February CTP (Community Technology Preview) for Windows Vista available to testers on Feb. 22, saying this is an enterprise release that was also feature-complete for the first time.
The Redmond, Wash. software maker also gave information about a number of deployment tools and imaging technologies that will be made available alongside Vista, including the Windows Vista Application Compatibility Toolkit, the new user state migration toolkit and the new image format that provides neutrality across languages and form factors.
But Michael Burk, a product manager for Windows Vista, declined to give any information about the software giants plans for Windows Vista SKUs, saying this would be released shortly.
Brad Goldberg, the general manager of Windows Client Product management, also stressed in a media and analyst teleconference that Windows Vista was not so much a consumer focused release as a business oriented one.
"While there is a lot of cool stuff in the release that consumers will be excited about, Windows Vista is as much, if not more, a business focused release that will provide significant value for business customers," he said.
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But, while this was the enterprise Vista CTP release and targeted at testers within companies and enterprises, the next CTP release, which will be made available next quarter, will be targeted at the broader consumer market, he said.
Microsoft had also, with Windows Vista, moved beyond its previous policy of having a single, beta 2 release. All of the CTP previews formed part of the broader beta 2 release, Goldberg said, adding that this second beta process would culminate in the CTP release made available in the next quarter.
However, there will also be additional CTPs beyond that one, he said. "The product is also on track for release in the second half of this year, but the final release date will be determined by quality," he said.
This enterprise CTP addresses a number of customer issues, especially around the four main challenges enterprises face when deploying new versions of Windows on their PCs. The first is around application compatibility and how the new operating system would impact the existing environment, Goldberg said.
Microsoft had developed the Windows Vista Application Compatibility Toolkit alongside the release of Vista, which was a shift for the company.
A beta of this will be released at the same time as the next CTP release and will allow organizations to start understanding overall compatibility in their organization and what the actual impact will be, he said.
There will also be a new user state migration toolkit available soon, to help organizations migrate data off existing machines and onto new ones.
"We have also addressed the cost and complexity around images. Industry data shows that most organizations spend about $100,000 per unique image they need to manage at the operating system level," he said.
Half of IT professionals told Microsoft that hardware platforms were the single biggest factor in preventing them from driving image management costs down.
Windows Vista would thus have a new image format that provides language and hardware neutrality from an image perspective, so that customers can use this to move to a consistent image model and drive down the numbers of images they need to manage separately, he said.