Windows Vista Beta Is On

Microsoft unveils code and interfaces for Longhorn, IE7 and Longhorn Server.
The end of the long road to Longhorn finally appeared over the horizon, with Microsoft's release today of early test versions of its next-generation client and server operating systems.

On Wednesday, Microsoft delivered the beta 1 releases of Windows Vista (formerly code-named Longhorn) and the still-code-named Longhorn Server.

Microsoft executives said Windows Vista beta 1 focuses on the fundamentals of security, deployment, manageability, reliability and diagnostics.

According to Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney, the Windows Vista beta mirrors Microsoft's overall product strategy.

''What's typical of Microsoft releases [is] there's a lot in there for the PC support people and a lot for developers, but the end user probably won't see all that much except window dressing. [IT pros] have always been their focus, because that's where money is.''

The beta code for the Windows client included some of the features Microsoft is adding to beef up security. User Account Protection lets administrators limit user privileges. Applications by default will run with limited permissions. Windows Service Hardening monitors for abnormal activity in the file system, registry and network that signals Trojan or spyware activity. Worms and viruses will automatically be removed from the computer during an upgrade.

Redmond's engineers tightened up security for stolen or lost laptops and devices as well, with full-volume encryption, and encryption keys are stored in a chip.

There are two strategies for preventing compromised laptops and other mobile devices from infecting corporate networks. Network Access Protection won't let mobile users connect to the enterprise network unless they meet its security criteria, while administrators can control which applications can communicate on the network.

Beleaguered administrators may look forward to Windows Vista's promised ease of integration.

The beta 1 includes the Windows Imaging (WIM) format, a single, compressed file that contains one or more complete Windows Vista installation images. According to Microsoft, image-based setup is less error-prone than scripted installation.

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