|Microsoft has announced the arrival of the February Windows Vista CTP, which was renamed to "Enterprise CTP" as the company moves from monthly to audience specific naming. The release means Windows Vista is now "feature complete," offering the first glimpse at the Windows Sidebar.
In a conference call Wednesday, General Manager of Windows Client Product Management Brad Goldberg heralded the Enterprise CTP -- numbered build 5308 -- as a "call to action for businesses." Microsoft is encouraging enterprises to begin testing out new features starting today.
"Windows Vista is as much, if not more, a business focused release that will provide significant value for business customers," Goldberg said. He cited four examples of how the operating will benefit companies: deployment and support costs, security, connecting people and information, and mobile productivity.
"For no other reason than security, businesses are going to want to deploy Windows Vista," Goldberg explained. Key areas of focus include work on Internet Explorer to provide a safer browsing experience, as well as user account control. Goldberg noted that 80 percent of users in enterprises work as administrators and Microsoft hopes to drive that number down with Vista.
Corporate data protection will be boosted in Windows Vista through full drive encryption using BitLocker, along with work done on Group Policy functionality.
The Enterprise CTP also includes the new Mobility Center, Goldberg said. From there, users can modify all settings on their mobile PC depending on the environment. For example, when giving a presentation an enterprise user can quickly change the desktop background, switch power settings and disable instant messaging.
Mobile Windows Vista users will additionally be able to access terminal server based applications without a VPN, and seamlessly move across networks from a mobile environment to a connected one. Microsoft wants to see businesses begin putting Vista on new laptops when the OS launches later this year.
To aid in application compatibility testing and promote quick adoption of Vista, Microsoft will make available a toolkit earlier than it did for Windows XP. A beta version is slated to ship when the next Vista CTP is released.
Calling it "one of the biggest areas of impact in the overall Windows Vista release," Goldberg also detailed a new system image format available for the operating system. The idea is to ease deployment across a large number of PCs, while supporting customization for language and form factor.
Although it has been given the moniker Enterprise CTP, the release contains the same consumer features that will ship with Vista, including the Windows Sidebar.
"This is the milestone that we had previously talked about as being the February CTP," Goldberg said in response to a question from BetaNews. "The reason we're calling it Enterprise CTP is we're trying to be very specific around the call to action for businesses."
The Enterprise CTP will be available to over 500,000 testers, and Goldberg says Microsoft is doing nothing to limit the release to enterprise customers.
But Goldberg was less clear on whether or not the company would release an official Beta 2 build of Windows Vista. Before, "Beta 2 would be a static point in time release," he said. "Beta 2 moved to be this process, [which] will end with the next CTP we'll release next quarter."
The next CTP, ostensibly taking the place of Beta 2, will be a broader, end-user release, although it's not yet clear whether Microsoft will make that build available to the general public.
After that point, there "will be more CTPs along the way." Goldberg would not comment on whether we will see an actual release candidate build of Windows Vista later in the year, or simply continued CTP builds.
One area Microsoft refused to touch on during the conference call was the planned editions for Windows Vista. News of six different SKUs and two special EU-only versions leaked out late last week. The Enterprise CTP does not represent a specific edition, Microsoft said.
Michael Burk, Client Manager of the Windows Product Division, promised that Microsoft would be "making more information available on the Windows Vista SKUs very, very soon."