A release candidate is typically software in the final stretch before release, well past the beta test stage and nearly good enough to ship but in need of one or more final shakedowns.
On September 1, Platforms and Services Co-President Jim Allchin announced RC1 was available for download from Microsoft TechNet. "The operating system is in great shape with RC1, but theres still a lot of testing to do," Allchin wrote.
Sven Hallauer, director of release management for Windows Vista at Microsoft (Quote, Chart), was surprisingly urgent in an audio blog posted earlier this week that beta testers immediately get to work pounding on the software, so Microsoft can meet its own internal milestones.
"As soon as the build is out, download it, install it, test it, and file bugs," he said. "Time is of the essence. We have a feedback window of two to three weeks after RC1 release where we can really make changes to the product, in terms of getting deeper into the product's code base. Then thereafter, we become very, very constrained in terms of what we can change without resetting the clock and slipping the release."
The reason for such urgency, aside from keeping a November deadline for shipping to corporate customers, is that Microsoft simply can't test all of the configurations. "We never have the diversity of third-party apps, hardware, firewalls, and configurations that you want to cover broadly for an RC," he said.
Hallauer said at this point, most of the bugs are in the third-party code, particularly device drivers. It's not unusual for device drivers to be among the last elements shaken down in the development cycle.
Reviewers in several published reports said the performance and relative stability of pre-RC1 is considerably better than Beta 2, released in late May, though they all also said the software needs further work.
Vista is expected to ship to corporate customers in late November and the retail channel in January. Pricing for the operating system recently appeared on Amazon.com, and was mostly in line with Windows XP pricing.
New Features in Beta of Windows Media Player 11
In other beta news, Microsoft has posted the second beta of Windows Media Player 11, its audio and video player, with a number of improvements in function and performance.
Naturally, Microsoft said there has been a number of bug fixes and performance improvements over beta one, but more has been added to the player as well.
Three new online stores have been added to WMP 11, bringing the total number of online media stores to 14. The stores added are eMusic, VidZone and Music Giants. WMP11 Beta 2 also offers seamless integration with URGE, MTV's digital music service.