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.
to read more about the latest Windows Vista CTP release.
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.
Reducing Manual Labor
Deployment also currently tends to be a very manual process, with many customers developing their own automation processes. Some organizations were spending about $1,000 per desktop on the manual deployment process to get a new operating system release out.
“We have added a number of new tools in Windows Vista to help organizations automate the deployment process,” Goldberg said.
“This is coming out in the new automated installation kit, which really pulls together the tools for creating, editing and deploying images. This separate set of tools will be available outside the CTP, and is available today via TechNet.”
On the deployment guidance and practices side, Microsoft will be expanding its current guidance in Windows Vista to help with migrations from heterogeneous environments through the Windows Vista timeframe, Goldberg said.
“Our guidance to customers is for enterprises to start testing out the enterprise features like user account control and seeing how these affect their organization, especially internal applications written assuming that users would be in administrator mode rather than standard mode,” he said.
Customers also need to look at the tools Microsoft is making available, and test them to understand how they will benefit from them and how they need to upgrade their infrastructures to take advantage of this.
There are also a number of areas where Windows Vista will deliver business value, he said.
“One of the big ways we are doing this is by decreasing image management costs and reducing the number of images IT managers need to maintain in their environment,” Goldberg said.
“We are also making it easier to install updates and reduce the number of reboots required when patches are installed, lowering help desk costs as well.”
The second area of business value is around providing a more secure and compliant desktop infrastructure, including investments and work in Internet Explorer to provide a safer browsing experience.
Organizations will also be able to use Windows Vista to have PCs deployed with users as standard users. “Today, some 80 percent of users in enterprises work as administrators and we are hoping to drive that number down dramatically so most tasks can be completed by standard users,” Goldberg said.
The Vista development team had also done a lot of work around corporate data protection, including its investment in BitLocker to work on group policy to protect corporate data on desktop and laptop machines, he said.
The third area of value is around connecting people to information so they could work in smarter ways. The user experience around finding and searching information on the PC has been made more intuitive, helping make users more productive and drive down IT costs, Goldberg said.
The sidebar, a window that will exist on the side of the screen, where there are gadgets that users can visualize to make them more connected to their information.
“In a business context, an IT administrator can have a gadget that shows the current uptime for their server farm,” he said.
The last big area of business value is around increasing mobile and remote productivity and helping organizations optimize their IT infrastructure.
Organizations are shifting their hardware mix more towards laptops, so Microsoft has addressed some simple things like how fast a laptop turns on and off, which will be better and faster in Vista because of the investments Microsoft had made in sleep and the new technologies around power management, Goldberg said.
Microsoft had also made it easier to connect securely, so organizations and individuals will be able to access terminal server-based applications without a VPN, Goldberg said.
Microsoft had made a number of investments around roaming profiles and how users could back up data on their machines and also remain connected to the server.
“In Windows Vista, IT professionals will be able to set additional roaming profiles beyond My Documents. This is a win for users as their data will stay backed up, but it is also a win for IT who wanted users to back their data up on the server rather than on their local machines,” Goldberg said.