Vista: What You Need to Know

Microsoft Watch's Mary Jo Foley provides answers to your Vista questions.

How close to shipping is Vista (really)?

Microsoft is expected to drop Vista Beta 2—aka Vista Consumer CTP (Community Technology Preview)—as early as this week at WinHEC, and no later than a week or two from now. After a few more release candidates, which will go to smaller and smaller subsets of testers, the product will go to manufacturing. Microsoft still says volume licensees will be able to get code in November 2006, and for everyone else it will be available in January 2007. If Beta 2 isnt rock-solid, expect a push back in all dates by one calendar quarter, at least.

Which Vista SKU will be right for me?

There are six primary Windows Vista SKUs: Windows Starter 2007, Windows Vista Enterprise, Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Ultimate and Windows Vista Business. Most enterprises are likely to gravitate to Vista Enterprise, which includes BitLocker drive encryption; Virtual PC Express virtual-machine support; the SUA (Subsystem for Unix-based Applications), which is designed to allow Unix applications to run on Vista machines; and access to all worldwide languages supported by Vista via a single deployment image. But Enterprise will be available to volume licensees only. Small businesses might prefer Vista Ultimate.

How much will Vista cost?

Microsoft still hasnt released final pricing. Officials have said users should expect rough price parity between XP and Vista. But Microsoft has made no bones about its plan to persuade as many users as possible to upgrade to premium versions of the product, such as Enterprise and Ultimate, which will have higher prices.

Why should a business user upgrade to Vista?

Microsofts 30-second elevator pitch to businesses emphasizes the products new built-in security advances (user-account protection, service hardening, network-access protection, built-in firewall, and new Internet Explorer phishing and browsing protection). Vista also includes improved synchronization with mobile devices, better power management facilities, a bunch of new built-in diagnostic software and other performance/reliability features. Microsofts biggest competitor for Vista will be previous versions of the product; for many users, Windows XP and even Windows 2000 still work just fine.


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