Microsoft Invites Users to Test Vista Beta 2

Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled Windows Vista Beta 2. The software giant is inviting comments in advance of Vista’s scheduled launch date of January 2007. The new operating system comes with a plethora of new features, amid high expectations as well as plenty of skepticism.

“Vista has undergone so many changes, but it is stable enough for enterprises to begin testing now,” Directions on Microsoft Lead Analyst Michael Cherry told TechNewsWorld. “Part of the evaluation is not going to just be how stable the product is, but whether or not it provides a set of features that enterprises feel they need.”

The Business Case

Microsoft is standing on the promise that Vista will help businesses empower their people to be successful in several critical ways, including simplifying communication through mobility and collaboration enhancements, finding information through improvements to search and organizational capabilities, and reducing IT complexity and cost through enhancements to application compatibility, deployment and security.

Vista Beta 2 features Windows Meeting Space to allow face-to-face collaboration among small groups of users; Windows SlideShow, a platform that supports secondary screens; enhanced touch and tablet technology, and new roaming user profiles and folder redirection.

With Windows Vista Beta 2, Microsoft has focused on improving the experience, reliability and overall quality of Windows Vista in these areas, providing a more complete and productive testing environment for customers, the firm said.

Advice and Compatibility

Consumers are encouraged to use the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor to test hardware, device, driver and application compatibility on current systems. For enterprises, Microsoft offers the Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.0 beta to allow enterprises to immediately begin working on their Windows Vista deployment planning.

The toolkit is designed to identify applications that will need enhancements, and help fix applications issues. Specific tools recommend compatibility changes for applications written specifically for Windows XP that fail during the installation process and diagnose issues that would prevent a program from running properly without administrator privileges.

Security Hype Defined

“Security is one of the main focuses with Vista Beta 2, but businesses will also want to take a look at the changes made to the networking and management features of the product,” Cherry noted.

Indeed, much of the Vista hype has revolved around security improvements. Microsoft promises to improve security and protect corporate data with features like User Account Control designed to help reduce the impact of malware, the installation of unauthorized software, and unapproved system changes.

Internet Explorer Protected Mode helps protect users from malicious Web sites by restricting the browser’s ability to modify user or system files and settings. Windows Firewall with Advanced Security is centrally manageable through Group Policy and provides advanced new capabilities to help better protect an organization’s network and PCs from malicious attacks.

No Rest for Microsoft

Even though Microsoft appears to be on the home stretch with Vista, analysts said there is still much more work to complete before the final product is released. As technicians report bugs, Microsoft will have to issue fixes and release other iterations to make sure the fixes work.

“Each time you make a major step, people’s focus turns toward the next step,” Cherry remarked. “So there is no opportunity for Microsoft to rest.”

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