Jan 27, 2006 (01:01 PM EST)
Q&A: Microsoft's Allchin Discusses Vista

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CRN Industry Editor Barbara Darrow and Senior Writer Paula Rooney met with Microsoft's Jim Allchin, co-president, Platform Products & Services Division, in Boston this week to discuss Vista beta 2, its business and consumer features and plans for release.

CRN: So Vista beta 2 is a series of two CTPs?

Allchin: I think you know we changed the process of how we're building product, the process internally and we also changed the way we're going to get feedback on it. We produced one CTP in October, December, and we'll produce one this quarter and one next quarter. We're targeting each CTP at a particular audience. The one in December, which we also talked about [at] CES, and we spent time with retailers and OEMs. And one coming up this quarter will be targeted toward our corporate accounts.

CRN: But the CTPs are Vista Beta 2?

Allchin: We think about all these CTPs as beta 2. It's a different way of thinking about it. The last of these is the last beta 2 and we won't do RC0. We'll move from there right to RC1. We wanted to get code complete a little earlier and we did that. And between now and RTM we're doing nothing but listening to usability feedback, improving performance and quality.

CRN: How widely will it be deployed?

Allchin: We're asking our TAP customers to deploy to hundreds of PCs inside each of their companies. There will be thousands and thousands of versions out there. The next one we do next quarter will be much broader and targeted more for consumers. That level of distribution of a million, maybe two million, so much broader.

CRN: So Vista is feature complete now?

Allchin: Yes, and people will see that in the next beta that comes out this quarter. The one for corporations will be feature complete but quality won't be what we like. So we'll have all the features but we have a lot of work to do.

CRN: Microsoft said it would have broad beta 2 testing in the first quarter but that won't come until the second quarter. So does this signal a delay of sorts?

Allchin: I don't think I've ever said that.

CRN: During the last CTP briefing, Microsoft said beta 2 is coming out in the first quarter.

Allchin: And it is, but not as broad as in everyone can get it. Thousands and thousands will get this one. 500,000 will get this one so it all depends on what you think broad is.

CRN: Why not let everyone test it now, consumers and corporate users?

Allchin: For two reasons. First, we can only focus on quality feedback on [certain] parts of system at one time. The biggest lead item for business is not usability of the top level UI. It's got to be about ease of deployment. Second, I don’t believe the quality will be enough for us to go broad in one plus million copies.

CRN: Are these CTPs matched to planned SKUs. Is the enterprise CTP the code for one business version of Vista?

Allchin: No, it’s not tied to SKUs. It's tied to the audience level we [seek] feedback from.

CRN: So what should companies test?