Microsoft is set to release a feature-complete test version of Windows Vista on Wednesday, an offering the company will encourage enterprises to deploy in preparation for the general availability of the operating systems later this year.
Microsoft planned to discuss the Community Technology Preview (CTP) release of Vista on a conference call at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday. According to the company, the CTP to be released Wednesday includes a host of new and enhanced tools for enterprises to plan, test, build and deploy Vista.
Vista includes management features and improvements to the ability to set group policies that should make the OS easier to manage across enterprise desktops, the company said.
According to Microsoft, manual deployments of an OS across enterprise desktops can cost as much as US$1,000 per PC. Microsoft is eager for enterprises to update to Windows Vista, and so plans to simplify the deployment process with a host of tools and resources aimed at making it more cost-effective and easier to manage. The sum of these efforts is to reduce the cost of per-desktop deployment to below US$100, according to Microsoft.
In addition to these tools, new features in the CTP include Windows Sidebar, a desktop bar that provides access to Gadgets -- miniapplications on the desktop that give users quick access to information such as time, stock prices and IT infrastructure status, either via the Web or over a company's own network. Microsoft has demonstrated this feature OS before, but it has not been a part of any previous test version. Vista's programming interface also allows developers to build their own Gadgets.
The OS's Welcome Center interface, which allows for adding user accounts and provides tutorials, also appears in the new test version. OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) also can customize Welcome Center, accessible from the All Programs and Control Panel functions of the Start Menu, to offer add-on products to customers.
Windows Vista is now feature-complete, but the company said features could change and evolve as the product continues to go through testing. However, Microsoft's primary focus for Vista now is to fine tune the OS as much as possible.
Wednesday's release of Windows Vista will be distributed to testers in the Windows Vista Technical Beta Program, as well as made available to Microsoft Developer Network and TechNet subscribers.