By Mark Long / CIO Today. Updated December 06, 2007.
Microsoft has rolled out its release candidates for Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows Server 2008, which are now available for download at the software giant's Web site.
The two test versions represent one of the last opportunities for Microsoft's partners and enterprise-class customers to evaluate the new products and provide the company with feedback before their release, the company said.
"The release candidate phase of beta software is typically the final phase before the release-to-manufacturing of a product and indicates that the code has attained a significant level of performance and stability," said Microsoft product manager and Windows Vista launch team member Nick White.
Microsoft attributes about 5 percent of its Windows desktop OEM revenue growth in the third quarter to declines in piracy. "While piracy rates are hard to measure precisely, we're seeing indications from internal metrics, like WGA validation failures, that the Windows Vista piracy rate is less than half that of Windows XP today," said Microsoft corporate vice president Michael Sievert.
Still, pirates have discovered two different ways to generate counterfeit versions of Windows Vista, Sievert noted. One method involves modifying system files and the BIOS of the motherboard to mimic a type of product activation performed on factory-installed copies of Vista, while the other exploit attempts to reset the "grace time" limit between installation and activation. "SP1 will include updates that will target those exploits and disable them," Sievert said.
Users of systems identified as running counterfeit versions of Vista will be presented with clear and recurring notices about their status. "They won't lose access to functionality or features, but it will be very clear to them that their copy of Window Vista is not genuine and they need to take action," Sievert added.
In addition to targeting the piracy issues, Windows Vista SP1 will address specific reliability and performance issues as well as support new types of hardware and several emerging standards. Moreover, SP1 will "make it easier for I.T. administrators to deploy and manage Windows Vista," White noted.
Vista SP1 will be released in a two-stage process, with the first wave consisting of the English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish upgrades to be launched in the first quarter of 2008, White said. The second wave, which will come about eight to 12 weeks after the first, will fill in the remaining languages.
Microsoft has committed more than $150 million worldwide for outreach to I.T. professionals and developers in relation to next year's official release of Windows Server 2008, Microsoft SQL Server 2008, and Microsoft Visual Studio 2008.
"This is the largest enterprise launch in our history, and both Microsoft and many of our industry partners are making a significant investment in a worldwide rollout," said Microsoft corporate vice president Andy Lees. "Bringing customers and partners into the development process early helps enable us to deliver the best, most tested, and proven new versions of these Microsoft products."
Microsoft is providing its partners with free test tools for ensuring that the applications they develop for Windows Server 2008 will be able to deliver a predictable experience. Partner applications that pass Microsoft's "Works with Windows Server 2008" tests will be able to submit their results to an authorized test vendor for independent validation and thereby reach "Certified for Windows Server 2008" status.
Additionally, Microsoft's enterprise-class customers are being given the test tools they'll need for gauging whether their existing applications are compatible with the new Windows server platform.