Microsoft released its third community technology preview
(CTP) of Windows Vista on Monday, saying a feature-complete version
would be available early next year.
The release was sent to the roster of Vista beta testers in the
morning and was expected to be available on the Microsoft Developers
Network and TechNet sites later today. CTPs are designed for use by
the technical community, to help developers understand how their
applications might be affected by changes and also to garner product
feedback. About 500,000 people are eligible for the download.
Shanen Boettcher, senior director for the Windows client group,
said the company is on track to deliver a feature-complete build of
Vista, the next-generation operating system, early in 2006.
"We've redefined the way we're managing the lifecycle of the
development process for Windows," Boettcher said, "while the
feedback is making the product much better."
The current CTP shows updates to security, mobility, performance
and the user interface, Boettcher said during a conference call.
On the security front, Windows Antispyware has been renamed
Windows Defender, and it has improved detection and removal of
spyware. The user interface was redesigned and simplified to make it
easier to use and, like all Vista features, it can be run in
standard user mode, rather than administrator mode, which reduces
opportunities for crackers.
In response to customer feedback, the CTP lets administrators set
group policy to control the use of removable storage devices such as
USB flash drives, enabling admins to block their use in order to
prevent corporate "information leak."
Vista now includes support for international domain names in
Internet Explorer, as well as protection from the spoofing of domain
names. "You'll see the ability to detect if a character is being
used in a URL that is not consistent with the language the user has
set to be running in," Boettcher said. For example, if a URL
contains an o with an umlaut and the user is running in English,
that URL would be flagged for review.
Parental control features include the ability to limit the amount
of time that the computer time used, to limit the Web sites that can
be visited and to see detailed reports on usage.
Full-volume encryption can protect lost laptops by blocking
access to the entire hard drive. This feature, dubbed BitLocker, is
available in the control panel of the CTP build.
The latest preview includes SuperFetch, a caching algorithm that
speeds up the computer by making sure things that are used most
frequently are cached. Boettcher said Vista will also support the
use of extended memory, so that users will be able to designate, for
example, memory contained in a removable storage device for
operations -- unless their administrators have blocked it.
Finally, Microsoft developers have moved away from the often slow
boot-up and shut-down procedures. Instead, they've shifted to a
single-button, off/on control. The default off mode with be sleep
mode, Boettcher said; in that state, a minimal amount of power will
be used. After a predetermined time, the computer will roll into
full hibernation. Hibernation uses no power at all, but offers the
benefits of quick on and off.
The user interface has started to show some of the Aero
transparency effects, as well as animation, and Media Player 11 also
Boettcher said the team is closer to a feature-complete version
of Vista than it had been in previous releases, and expects the code
to be complete by the end of 2005, with the full version available
as a beta early in 2006.
Last week, IT research firm Directions on Microsoft released a
research note detailing Microsoft's challenges for the year ahead.
The first challenge was persuading businesses to upgrade to Vista,
while the second was plugging security holes and reassuring
enterprise customers that its applications were secure.