Microsoft is expected to deliver the next Windows Vista milestone, the February Community Technology Preview release, this week—most likely on Feb. 21, according to testers briefed last month by Microsoft.
Around the same time that it releases the updated test build of its next version of Windows, Microsoft also is expected to launch a beta of deployment tools designed to help corporations implement Vista.
Microsoft invited hundreds of TAPs (Technology Adoption Partners)—its pool of elite beta testers—to the Redmond, Wash., campus on Jan. 24 and 25. There, according to participants who asked not to be named, Microsoft officials said the next Vista CTP was slated for Feb. 21. TAP testers said the follow-on release, the Customer Preview Program CTP, is slated for April.
Microsoft officials have said the next Vista interim test build is due this quarter but have declined to provide specifics. While its not clear which internal Vista build will be christened the February CTP nor which features will be added or dropped from that build, TAP testers said they expect Microsoft to use the next milestone as a starting point for its Vista deployment tool testing.
With Windows XP, Microsoft laid the current Windows deployment tool groundwork by introducing an elaborate set of tools, methodologies and guidance, known as Solution Accelerator for BDD (Business Desktop Deployment).
For corporations considering rolling out tens, hundreds or thousands of seats of new software, deployment tools are crucial. Thats why the Vista team is spending considerable cycles planning what kinds of Windows Vista deployment tools it wants to deliver, how it plans to roll them out and when to get potential customers on board.
"Deploying desktops in a business environment isnt a trivial task and shouldnt be treated lightly," reads Microsofts Solution Accelerator for BDD Web site. "Things can go wrong. Applications might not be compatible with the new operating system. Users might lose important documents and settings. The infrastructure might not be prepared for the deployment or new operating system. There are potential pitfalls, and these pitfalls can cost money."
Microsoft is set to turn this message up a notch with Vista, TAP testers said. For Vista, Solution Accelerator for BDD will get a face-lift, as well as a new name: BDLM (Business Desktop Lifecycle Management) for Vista. Microsoft officials recently told TAP testers to expect a Beta 1 release of BDLM in February. A second BDLM beta, tentatively slated for April, will add support for Windows XP deployment, according to the schedule Microsoft laid out for TAP testers.
Microsoft is looking to add new services and tools to BDLM that werent part of Solution Accelerator for BDD. Among these are SLA (service-level agreement) tools, mobility synchronization tools, network quarantine functionality for security and rights management.
At the same time, all current Windows deployment tools—such as XImage, the Sysprep (System Preparation) tool, Windows PE (Windows Preinstallation Environment), USMT (User State Migration Tool) and the like—will be refreshed, testers said. And rather than relegating the deployment center interface to a Web page, Microsoft is seriously considering making the interface an MMC (Microsoft Management Console) application, testers added.
Testers said that there also will be a server component of Microsofts deployment tool kit. The WDS (Windows Deployment Services) server will be a replacement for Microsofts current RIS (Remote Installation Services) technology, testers said.
Microsoft has released a number of CTPs to testers since the company delivered Beta 1 of Vista last July. CTPs are test releases of Microsoft technologies that offer a snapshot of a product at a particular point in time. They are usually less stable than traditional beta releases.
Microsoft has labeled the mid-December CTP, Vista Build 5270, as the "partner CTP." The February CTP is considered the "enterprise CTP."
Microsoft officials have said to expect the February CTP to include functionality that will allow the build to install on top of Windows XP. The February CTP is widely expected to include the Windows Sidebar pane, which Microsoft cut last year and subsequently decided to add back into the product. But, as of January, Sidebar was still not guaranteed to make it into the February CTP, officials said.
Microsoft is expected to release the final version of Vista to manufacturing in late summer and to ship the product, via its hardware partners and other licensing channels, this fall.