Microsoft Corp. last month moved a step closer to releasing the first fully featured build of Windows Vista, the next version of its operating system due for final release late this year.
Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., in July made the first beta of Windows Vista available to about 20,000 technical beta testers and also released the first beta of Windows Server "Longhorn" to a limited number of participants in that technical beta program.
The second Vista beta, which will go to a far larger group of testers, moved a step closer as well after Microsoft last month released a build for both Vista and Longhorn to its CTP (Community Technology Preview) program testers. The release of the second Vista beta is expected early this year, but Microsoft officials would not give a specific time frame.
A Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK last month that participants in the Longhorn private beta program had received an updated build of Longhorn code as part of the Vista CTP.
The first and only public build of Longhorn was distributed in September at Microsofts Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.
In November, Microsoft officials said the company was moving away from issuing monthly CTPs for Vista and that it would instead release CTPs based on the achievement of quality milestones.
"Security, performance and reliability [form] the cornerstone of this [December] CTP release, with the inclusion of features like Windows Defender, which facilitates the removal of malware and spyware. Windows Defender also has a redesigned user interface to make it easier to use and will be able to be run by a standard user," said Shanen Boettcher, a senior director in Microsofts Windows client group.
Robert McLaws, president of Interscape Technologies Inc., of Mesa, Ariz., said the new Windows Defender anti-spyware functionality "is really slick" in the way that it applies multiple changes all at once.
Boettcher said the firewall has new bidirectional support and filtering, as well as advanced IP Security features for companies to manage and configure the firewall.
Also included in the build is the ability to use group policy to control storage devices, such as USB flash drives, which gives administrators a centralized way to control and block the use of these devices, he said.
In addition, Internet Explorer has a new feature that allows the detection, across international languages, of characters in the URL that are not in that specific language. But some testers, such as McLaws, questioned how Microsoft planned to incorporate tester feedback into future Vista builds.
"As they [Microsoft] are freight-training toward feature-complete, what will happen when testers suggest new features? Will they do bug fixes only?" he asked.
The December CTP, the third Windows Vista CTP released so far, also brought changes to the Vista UI, showing greater transparency and animation—and with more to come.
On the performance and reliability front, this CTP build incorporates a single on/off button for Vista, as well as Super Cache, an algorithm that speeds up individual uses of the machine by keeping those functions used most often in a cache.
Additional reporting by Microsoft Watchs Mary Jo Foley