Microsoft to test feature-complete Vista by early 2006

Microsoft is accelerating the development of the next version of its Windows client OS and plans to test a feature-complete version by early next year.

Microsoft is accelerating the development of the next version of its Windows client OS and plans to test a feature-complete version by early next year, a lead on the Windows Vista development team said Tuesday.

However, Microsoft is not planning to have a second beta of Vista available before the end of the year, said Amitabh Srivastava, corporate vice president of the Windows Core Operating System Development division. Microsoft plans to provide an update about the next beta of Windows Vista in early 2006.

The company released the first beta of the OS on July 27. Microsoft is still on track to make Windows Vista generally available in the second half of 2006, Srivastava added.

Microsoft will complete all the features of Windows Vista by the end of December, and will have those features integrated into the OS by early 2006, Srivastava said. Every test build after that will have the entire set of features of Vista, and any changes will be based merely on customer and tester feedback made about those features, he said.

Microsoft is making the move so developers and customers will have more of a chance to help improve the OS so the final version of the product will be of the highest quality possible, Srivastava said. "This will allow us to receive meaningful feedback much earlier and have code that will more accurately reflect [the final release]," he said.

Microsoft also is changing the release schedule for Community Technology Previews (CTPs) of Vista, he said. In September, Microsoft began releasing to the public more interim builds, or CTPs, of Windows Vista rather than the previous cycle of two beta releases in an effort to get more feedback on the product.

The company had originally planned to do those monthly, but is changing that to a more quality-based release schedule rather than one based on the calendar, Srivastava said. Instead of shooting for a CTP build every month, Microsoft will release CTPs that will focus on a feature or set of features about which the company wants feedback -- for example, Windows Vista's graphical user interface, he said. Once those features in that CTP meet certain minimum requirements, Microsoft plans to release the CTP, he said.

This could result in either more or less CTPs, depending on what technology Microsoft decides to focus on in those test versions. However, Srivastava was quick to stress that Microsoft believes CTPs are a vital way to get public comment about Vista to make it as robust as possible before the target release date of the second half of 2006, so it will still make available a very regular flow of those previews. "We really value the CTPs so they will be released often," he said.

That said, Microsoft has released a November CTP and plans to release a December CTP before the Christmas holidays, he said. The November CTP, however, was a limited release to customers and partners in Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program.

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