While the majority of Microsofts Windows client development team is working to get Windows Vista out the door before the end of this year, there is a small team already working on a set of core technologies for “Vienna”, the version that will follow Vista.
Sources have told eWEEK that Microsoft is referring to Vienna as Windows 2010 and that it is likely to be a major update of the pervasive operating system.
It is likely to be the version that follows Vista Release 2, which will be due in late 2007 or early 2008 based on the current plan of a Windows client update every two years.
Microsoft officials seldom talk about Vienna, given that their focus is on Vista. But earlier this month the company confirmed that it had changed the product code name from “Blackcomb” to Vienna.
Jim Allchin, the co-president of Microsofts Platform Products & Services Division in Redmond, Wa., told eWEEK in an interview that he was surprised there had been so much interest in the code name change, adding that there had been several changes before that had not leaked out. There was also no big reason behind the code name change, he said.
With regard to Vienna, Allchin said that while he was not thinking about a specific core feature-set for the product, the development team was working on a core set of themes and technologies slated for that release and even beyond.
“Vienna is far enough out that I do not think about it in terms of core features, but I think about it in terms of themes, and we are working on a set of core technologies that we want to get to.
“There are areas where Im spending time with the [Vienna] core development team in terms of componentization, extensibility, the application model and those sorts of things. But that is for the future, not for Windows Vista,” Allchin said.
There is a small set of people who are working on some advanced technologies, looking at the things of the future and doing some code, Allchin said, adding that none of the Vista development team would be moving across to Vienna anytime soon.
“We are just at the point where everybody is all-hands-on-deck … we have so many issues that we are trying to work through here [with Vista]. Things like device performance, application compatibility and device drivers,” Allchin said.
Asked if he thought that “Vienna” would be a 64-bit release only, rather than having 32-bit and 64-bit versions as with Vista, Allchin said, “I certainly hope so. You know the decisions we have already made around that on the server side.”
“We have already said that we are not going to have unsigned drivers and that is just the beginning for us to make the system that much more locked down.
“Not knowing where something is coming from is a real problem,” he added.
With regard to the upcoming CTP (community technology preview) builds of Vista, Allchin said that while each of these goes out to hundreds of thousands of testers, and each one is targeted at an audience that Microsoft will listen to the hardest. “There are specific people whose feedback we are trying to get in,” Allchin said.
February Vista CTP in
The next CTP, due in February, would be feature complete “and have lots of bugs” and be targeted mainly at Microsofts TAP (technology adopter program) testers.
“We continue to work on the bugs and each CTP will get better in terms of quality. The December CTP was not feature complete and I think that the February one will have more features and fewer bugs, while the one that follows will be a consequential step up,” he said.
The team will also continue to tweak the software throughout the process, and testers will see in the February release that the user interface has been changed, Allchin said.
But Microsoft has also learned that some of the changes were too advanced. “For example, we had a focus towards virtual folders, but we learned that is probably too much of a jump for customers.”
Allchin added that this would now be more like Windows XP when first opened, but with the virtual folders overlaid on top of that, allowing users to still create virtual folders, but offering a less severe change.
Microsoft is also going to be asking some corporate TAP testers to install several hundred Vista desktops to get their feedback on how deployable it is, how compatible the drivers and applications are and whether the testers would be able to deploy this throughout their company going forward, he said.
The CTP that follows the one in February is expected sometime in the second quarter of this year—sources said April—and will be targeted at what is expected to be over a million consumers for feedback.
Microsoft also “adopted” 5,000 consumers and tried to lock onto what they saying. “We listen to feedback very broadly, but we want to really get to know some of these customers really well,” he said.
Asked if any features that are expected to be in the product had been dropped to make the February feature-complete CTP build, Allchin said “not that I know of.”
But he reiterated that while he expected Vista to ship in time for the holiday season, the priorities he has set are, “quality, schedule and features. So if I dont think that we can achieve the quality I would in fact hold the release,” he said.
But Microsoft is confident that quality would not hold back the release, as the entire Windows team was working on performance, application compatibility, device coverage, usability and bug fixes.
“We have thousands of people who are doing nothing but making fixes as rapidly as they can. This is very different to past Windows releases where we had planned features included after beta two, and we are not doing that here.
“So, Im optimistic, but Im also a realist and I know I would harm the industry more by having it go out without the necessary quality. But we feel pretty good by where we are right now,” Allchin said.