No community technology preview will be released before its time.
But the time is set for Windows Vista.
In the first of what are to be regularly scheduled conference
calls, Amitabh Shrivastava, corporate vice president of the Windows
core operating system development division, gave an update on the
progress of Windows Vista, the next version of the OS expected to
ship during the second half of 2006.
In case there were any doubts, Shrivastava repeated it three
times in the course of the call: Vista is on track to be released to
manufacturing in the middle of next year in time for installation on
machines going on sale during the holiday shopping season.
But Microsoft has moved off the monthly schedule of CTPs it
promised at the Professional Developers Conference.
Shrivastava cautioned that CTPs are designed to provide insight
in the form of a snapshot of parts of the code, but they don't
constitute successions of steadily improving, fuller-featured
versions of what will be the final release.
Microsoft instituted CTPs as a way to get earlier customer
feedback, as well as to help customers understand where development
was going, and which of their applications might break.
The first Vista beta was released in July, and another is
expected early next year.
Beta versions are more stable that the CTPs, the last of which
was released on Oct. 17. Microsoft released a November CTP
internally, but doesn't plan to share it publicly.
Shrivastava said the team was accelerating development to get
most features code-complete by the end of December -- and all
features integrated into the product early next year -- in time to
let customers test with code that reflected the actual product.
He wouldn't detail which features would be in the next CTP or
exactly when it would be released.
Microsoft has moved from a calendar schedule for releases to a
"quality-based schedule," that is, releasing a preview when the code
reaches a high enough quality level.
CTPs will also be released to garner the kinds of feedback that
the developers need at that particular time. "We're doing it when it
makes most sense to do it, rather than on an arbitrary date,"
The change reflects deep transformations in the way Microsoft
develops software. Previously, code would be checked in, then tested
and debugged. Now, "quality gates" catch bad code within each
feature before it's checked in.
"So far, it has been quite effective in improving our agility,
that is, our ability to shift in response to customer feedback while
making product milestones and maintaining quality," he said.
Nor would Shrivastava give a guess on the release date for beta
2. Evidently, Microsoft is in no hurry.
The main purpose of a beta is for broad customer feedback, but
the CTP program is taking the place and providing better feedback
sooner, he said.
"Beta 2 is still an important milestone for broad customer
testing, but it's less important for customer feedback."