Microsoft Corp. has released a new version of its Windows Vista beta code that sheds some light on how the software vendor plans to improve networking and PC manageability in the next major release of the Windows operating system. The new release also gives testers an early look at some important new features for Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7.0 browser.
The Vista beta software was released to Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program customers last Thursday. A broader Community Technology Preview (CTP) release of the software was delivered yesterday to approximately 500,000 members of the Microsoft Developer Network, the TechNet developer program and the Windows Vista Technical Testing Program.
Microsoft released its first beta version of Windows Vista in July and then followed up with a CTP update at its Professional Developers Conference last month. With this third release, the company has focused on features that would matter most to technical users, said Mike Burk, product manager for the Windows client team at Microsoft. "What we tried to do this time was look at it from the perspective of people who were most likely to use this," he said.
New diagnostic software will be designed to detect and resolve problems in the computer's memory or on the hard drive. For example, it will be able to warn users whenever the hard drive begins to show signs of failing, Burk said. "The PC is able to diagnose problems before they become full-blown problems," he said.
The latest beta code also includes a feature called Network Center, which allows users to store and manage their network settings in one centralized location. Network Center, which will be part of the Windows Control Panel, will consolidate a number of the Windows configuration and troubleshooting tools, Burk said.
The new Internet Explorer code will expose Vista testers to some new browser features, including Quick Tabs, a feature that displays thumbnail versions of tabbed pages in a single window, and Tab Groups, a feature that allows users to save a set of tabbed pages into a single group within the browser's Favorites list. Users could, for example, set Internet Explorer to open this group of tabbed pages every time the browser was launched.
The Internet Explorer 7 beta will also be able to zoom in and out of Web pages, and it will feature a phishing filter as well as improved printing capabilities.
Here are some of the other features included in the October CTP release:
Windows Mobility Center. Located within the Control Panel, this feature will give users a single place to set display brightness, power utilization and other options important to mobile users.
Media Player 11. A first look at the new interface and features of the upcoming version of Microsoft's media player.
Digital signatures for the XML Paper Specification (XPS) format. This software lets users digitally sign documents to make it more clear who actually created and modified the work.
Windows Vista is expected to be released sometime in the second half of 2006. In addition to the upcoming CTP releases, which will continue to be released about once a month, a Windows Vista Beta 2 release is expected before the final product ships, Burke said. He wouldn't say when the Beta 2 code is expected.
The next CTP release will be some time in November, he said.