Vistas Next Act

Software giant preps build 5365, which will be an interim step to the final version

Microsofts new test build of Windows Vista is in the on-deck circle. Microsoft was widely expected by Windows testers to make available for download the new release, Build 5365, sometime during the week of April 17. Whether the company actually would deliver the anticipated code was still uncertain by the time this article went to press.

The company was expected to make the build available only to its TAP (Technology Adoption Program) and TechConnect testers as it did with the interim Vista build that it released in March.

Build 5365 is not the build once known as the April CTP (Community Technology Preview). That build, now expected by testers to arrive sometime in May, is also known as the Vista Consumer CTP and is expected to go to more than 2 million testers. Microsoft is not providing a firm date for that CTP build, other than to say it will arrive sometime in the second quarter.

The latest effort is a much more modest update, known as an EDW (External Developer Workstation) build. Microsoft releases these builds—which are typically rougher and less thoroughly tested than CTPs—to a smaller, selected set of testers on a regular basis.

According to various Windows-enthusiast sites around the Web, Build 5365 includes primarily cosmetic updates and fixes. One such site, H/D News, reported the build will include Sidebar fixes, support for more gadgets, Welcome Center changes, and install and driver support improvements.

When asked on April 17 for comment on the new build, a Microsoft spokesperson provided the following statement: "We are considering releasing updated Windows Vista code to Windows Vista Technical Beta program participants as well as select TAP customers. In addition to the CTPs, we sometimes provide a select group of testers with current prerelease versions of Windows Vista based on their feedback and testing needs. These builds are not CTPs. As we have said, the next CTP will conclude the Beta 2 process and will be called Beta 2. We are on track to deliver Beta 2 in the second quarter of this year."

More and more Microsoft divisions are moving toward making CTPs, rather than traditional betas, their preferred progress milestones. Microsoft may create a new term to reflect these builds, but, regardless of the ultimate name, the test builds are one way Microsoft is counting on to speed up its test and development processes. The Windows, SQL Server and Visual Studio teams already are relying increasingly on the CTP process in developing products. The Office team is said to be considering the CTP mechanism, as well.

On the Windows front, the last interim Vista build Microsoft released was the EDW it delivered on March 24. That Vista test build, number 5342, also included primarily user interface tweaks.

Microsoft is expected to continue to make EDWs available to a subset of TAP and TechConnect testers on a regular basis as the product moves toward completion.

Microsoft officials have taken to referring to the partner/December CTP, the enterprise/February CTP and the consumer/May CTP collectively as "Beta 2." There will be no single, traditional Vista Beta 2 release, however. Following the release of the May CTP, Microsoft is expected to roll out a number of various, smaller technical betas until the product is finished.

Vista has been feature-complete for several months. Microsoft will not be adding any new features to the product before it ships, although the company is reserving the right to cut some functionality if the product isnt up to snuff by the time it is ready to go gold.

Microsoft decided in March to cut from Vista planned support for the EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface). EFI, the successor to the PC BIOS, has been touted as an operating-system-independent interface that could aid in driver port-ability.

Microsoft has been promising for months, if not years, that Vista will support both BIOS and EFI. Microsoft is now committing to provide EFI support for 64-bit Windows first in Longhorn Server in 2007.

Microsoft officials have said Vista is still on course to be released to manufacturing this year and that business users with volume-license agreements will be able to take delivery of the code in November. The official Vista launch—and worldwide availability of all versions of the product for all customers—is slated for January 2007.