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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?
CRN: So what should companies test?
Allchin: They should be deploying all the features. At this level, were going to tell them to go broad, very broad. We got to know the show stoppers early.
CRN: What are major new features?
Allchin: Big advances. I see the big things as safety and security, user experience, mobility and Internet.
CRN: In terms of security, how do you compare security in Vista vs. security in Windows XP SP2?
Allchin: SP2 was a very good system but compared to Vista, it's night and day.
CRN: Is there going to be antivirus in Vista?
Allchin: No, there is not.
Allchin: It's a complicated answer as to why not.
CRN: Was the decision based on technical concerns?
Allchin: It wasn't technical.
CRN: Will Vista resolve security problems once and for all?
Allchin: I'm not going to claim perfection or near perfection, but I think we're unrivaled in the work we've done. I believe security will be a huge problem for the industry for years and years and years but this will change the landscape in a fairly dramatic way.
CRN: And rights management client is included in Vista?
Allchin: Before you had to get RMS software for a client from someplace else. We're making it simpler.
CRN: Can you use the search and organize feature across all the different content types, video and audio?
CRN: What about Media Center Edition? What happens to that when Vista ships?
Allchin: It goes away.
CRN: How does the mobile feature Sync-to-PC work?
Allchin: I mated [my laptop] with desktop and mating took five minutes. And when I'm done, this machine has all the photos, pictures, documents, and favorites sync to my desktop machine. If I make a change, it shows up there and there's no syncing option I have to use. We also included sync with servers.
CRN: What other Internet improvements?
Allchin: One area is native IPv6 and RSS facilities we added to system gives you common storage. Office will use this, IE will use this, Sidebar will use this and we expect many apps to use this.
CRN: How does RSS tie into Windows Live services?
Allchin: This is a storage capability on the client. Any feed put on a client goes into this store. That could come from Windows Live, yes, but any RSS feed.
CRN: Is the Windows Collaboration peer-to-peer feature based on Groove technology?
CRN: Do you plan to use Groove technology in Vista?
Allchin. No. I think you'll see it come out on the Office brand.
CRN: Do you see Vista as big for business as consumers?
Allchin: Yes, and certainly WinXP was not, but we spent a lot of time on the business side of this system, whether in all the mobile activity we added, and we have to prove this but we think we'll save the IT organization money both in the operational side of this and the management of deployment, because of the new imaging formats and new diagnostics and remote system, and the new event systems we've done.
CRN: What about Longhorn server?
Allchin: No changes. It's tracking to the schedule of Vista. They're moving to CTPs as well.
CRN: You expect to ship Longhorn server in first half of 2007?
Allchin: We haven’t said.
CRN: And what about the fact that all bits will be shipping with each version of Vista? This will make it easy for customers to setup.
Allchin: We haven't explained the whole plan. It's more complicated than shipping all bits. Stay tuned.