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• December 21, 2006 •

Indepth Review of Windows Vista.
Part I: Windows Vista Development

By: Arie Slob

Windows Vista Last month, Microsoft announced the Release To Manufacturing (RTM) of Windows Vista, finally bringing a close to the five year development cycle - the longest development period in Windows history.

During its years of development, several delays have pushed back the release of Windows Vista to January 2007 for broad consumer availability, while Microsoft made Windows Vista available to business users at the end of November 2006.

Microsoft decided to drop several more promising features along the way, most noticeably the proposed file system WinFS ; the Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) - previously known as "Palladium" and the PC-to-PC Synchronization feature. Another fact that's not widely known is that in early 2004 Microsoft did something that came to be known as the "Longhorn Reset" ("Longhorn" was Vista's code-name during much of the development stage). Before that date, Longhorn had been based on the Windows XP code-base, but by 2004 Jim Allchin, co-president of Microsoft's Platforms & Services Division, had decided that things they had done weren't going to work, so he decided to scrap what they had done so far, and start from scratch, this time using the Windows Server 2003 code-base as a starting point.

During 2005 Microsoft finally started showing some progress. It started off quite bad however, with the now infamous Longhorn build 5048 - released at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2005. At that time it had been more than a year since the last public build (4074), and in some respects build 5048 was a step backwards. The momentum finally arrived with the then newly named Windows "Vista" Beta 1 (build 5098), followed by the PDC 2005 build 5219 in September. This build was also described as the first Community Technical Preview (CTP) build. It was at the PDC that Microsoft announced it would be releasing monthly CTP builds of Vista for the remainder of the development cycle (which Microsoft would later claim it didn't promise - when the build for November failed to show). The December CTP build 5270 was touted as "near feature complete", and did prove that Microsoft was "back on track".

In 2006 we got the (delayed) feature complete CTP (build 5308) in February, which turned out to be a stable build which also showed good performance increases over past builds. Further interim builds were released, and on May 23rd Microsoft released Beta 2 of Vista at the WinHEC 2006 conference. Beta 2 was released to the general public in early June through the Windows Vista Customer Preview Program (CPP), putting the code into the hands of roughly 2 million of Windows users. Beta 2 wasn't as good as most of us expected. Previous CTP builds had been quite stable, but beta 2 suffered from a number of hard- and software incompatibilities. Later in June Microsoft released another CTP build (5465), which addressed most of Beta 2's compatibility & stability problems. Several more CTP builds where released before Microsoft announced Release Candidate 1 (RC1) on September 1st, and later that week RC1 was released to the public through the CPP program to an estimated 5 million users. At that time, Microsoft also announced the estimated retail pricing (for more details see my article). In early October Microsoft followed up with build 5744, referred to as RC2, which it only made available briefly through the CPP program. On November 8 Microsoft released Windows Vista to manufacturing, ending the longest Windows development cycle ever.

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