Microsoft Offers Free Vista Deployment Tools

Windows Vista deployments

Slated to be available for download from Microsoft's Web site early this week are the Microsoft Solution Accelerator for Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) 2007, the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5.0 and Windows Vista Hardware Assessment 1.0 tools, as well as two new tools to simplify product activation and a free version of Virtual PC 2007.

Some tools, such as the enterprise edition of BDD and Virtual PC Express, previously have been provided to select customers through Software Assurance, Microsoft's software maintenance program, and several of the other tools have been available in beta form or for individual use only, according to company executives.

But Microsoft opted to offer standard versions of BDD and Virtual PC 2007 and business versions of ACT 5.0 and the Hardware Assessment Tool to the general marketplace to help speed small- and midsize-business and enterprise adoption of Vista, which was released Jan. 30.

"We're making available a set of six different tools for companies to start on deployment plans and roll out Vista," said Shanen Boettcher, general manager of Windows client product management. "It's a whole cookbook on how to start [deployments], on the heels of [Vista's] general availability."

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The BDD tool, first offered to enterprise customers in mid-January, lays out the process of Vista deployment from soup to nuts, according to Microsoft Windows client managers. They said 60,000 copies have been downloaded so far.

The Application Compatibility Toolkit, also made available last month, creates an inventory of all applications and Web services on a PC or other device and provides up"to-the-minute information about their compatibility with Vista. The toolkit has been available for download in beta for several months, and 30,000 copies of the final version have been downloaded since last month, Microsoft said.

The Hardware Assessment Tool, a network version of the Upgrade Advisor tool for individuals, reaches out to all CPUs in a network and reports on how many PCs are Vista-capable and how many are ready for Vista Premium. Users can scan a portion of the network or the whole network to assess hardware readiness.

In addition, Microsoft is providing two new tools to ease volume activation requirements, which the company has instituted for the first time to prevent license keys from being used illegally. The Windows Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) enables IT professionals to automate and centrally manage volume activations using a multiple activation key. And the Key Management Service (KMS) for Windows Server 2003 allows business customers to host a local service within their environment to activate Vista without sending any data to Microsoft.

Another free tool, Virtual PC 2007, lets VARs and end users deploy and run legacy applications in guest operating systems on Vista to avoid compatibility headaches. For example, customers can run a custom application on a Windows XP or a Windows 2000 guest on Vista.

Early Vista adopters have run into a number of application and hardware incompatibilities with Vista out of the gate. Microsoft, for its part, said Vista supported 1.5 million devices when it first shipped to licensed customers in November and that it had added support for another 16,000 drivers by the time the product was made generally available Jan. 30.

To date, about 800 applications have been certified to run on Vista, Microsoft said. About 100 are Certified for Vista, meaning they're optimized for the new OS, while the rest have been tested and certified to work with Vista.

Boettcher said Microsoft soon plans to publish a list that identifies applications Certified for Vista, and the Redmond, Wash., software giant will add more applications to the list as the company and its ISV partners finish drivers.

Still, Boettcher said, it's not unusual for compatibility and other issues to crop up immediately after a new Windows OS ships. "With every new release, there's some work that has to happen in the industry," he said. "It's all part of the cycle. "