Partners Laud Vista RC1, Expect No More Delays

After more than a week's worth of testing, partners say Vista Release Candidate 1 is more solid than Beta 2 and predict the Windows client upgrade will be completed as planned in 2006.

RC1, one of the last test releases before market launch, was released in early September. Microsoft plans to make available Windows Vista Enterprise to Software Assurance customers in November and the other five editions to the general market in January.

"We have been very satisfied with the rollout of RC1," said Matt Scherocman, a director at PCMS IT Advisor, in Cincinnati. "The largest change that we see is the much better compatibility with other third party applications."

Gartner group and other analysts predicted in early August that Vista would be delayed until the spring. But Goldman Sachs top analyst Rick Sherlund, who also predicted the code would be delayed until next spring, has changed his mind.

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"After Beta 2 we assumed another slip in shipment to March. Now with RC1 we are not so sure," Sherlund said in an e-mail response to CRN. "Feedback has been pretty positive. I think if there were to be a slip we would likely hear about it soon. [There may be] a month or so slip possibly, but I think it is beginning to look like it may be closer to on or close to schedule now."

Microsoft first made Windows Vista RC1 available to a small group of technical customers on Sept. 1, and released the code more broadly to partners, resellers, consultants and end users last week. The code was made available to new testers via its customer preview program last Thursday.

In spite of some remaining driver issues and bugs, more than 10 Microsoft solution providers in North Amercia and Europe who have tested the Vista RC1 code over the past week cite much progress over Beta 2, which was released in late May.

"Glad to see Microsoft is back to getting this delivered," said Ken Winell, CEO of ExpertCollab, a Florham Park, N.J.-based Microsoft partner. "I have tested Vista RC1 on a number of Dell Latitudes (D610, D620 and D800) and have seen good performance on the dual core, with somewhat slower performance on the Centrino machines."

"We've seen a marked improvement in Vista RC1 and are very happy with the progress. The driver support is significantly enhanced versus the late Beta 2 builds, stability and performance is much better and the overall experience is cleaner," said Neil Rosenberg, president and CEO of Quality Technology Solutions, Morris Plains, N.J. "We've had some bumps in the road, but nothing really beyond what we expected when we started the process of testing and deploying Vista with our clients."

Other partners cited significant improvements in RC1's memory management, security, search, performance, interface and driver availability.

"I bought a new computer and upgraded to the Vista pre-RC1 version; then on Saturday upgraded to RC1. And it works. Not only does it work, but it works very well, and by the time Microsoft gets rid of any remaining wrinkles it will be great. The interface is as good as the best from Apple, in fact probably better," said Dermott Renner, owner of Starsoft Computers, Auckland, New Zealand. "Beta 2 did not have a great many drivers but this has been fixed in RC1 and I am sure will be extended even further in the released version. RC1 is pretty fast and snappy performance-wise, it seems as fast as Windows XP. The boot-up and shutdown times are faster than XP. And I think a lot of people will try Vista's ReadyBoost option where you plug in a USB key and Vista uses it to cache frequently used files to."

Most partners said they are pleased with RC1's improved driver support but note that more drivers are needed before the rollout is possible.

"Vista RC1 is dramatically better than beta 2," said Tim Huckaby, CEO and President of Interknowlogy, a Carlsbad, Calif. custom application developer. "RC1 is faster than Windows XP in most of the spots I can see. Vista has everything you need to run in production - even on a notebook. I can understand that some third party drivers are not available yet and frankly that is going to be an issue for another year as Microsoft waits for the 3rd party vendors to do their drivers."

Two Microsoft partners said the new user interface will drive adoption, and hopefully the development of more drivers.

"I have been playing with RC1 and pre-RC1 since they came out. Both seem very solid. Not perfect, but solid," said Andrew Brust, CTO of New York-based consultancy twentysix New York. "The biggest issue, as with any new OS release, is driver compatibility and availability. On my ThinkPad T42, which is not branded as Vista-compatible, things are smooth and speedy, although without the Aero Glass video effects. I really like Vista. It hurts a little when I have to go back to XP."

"RC1 is that it is surprisingly complete, stable, fast and usable. It is a great move forward from Beta 2. Beta 2 was too slow to really enjoy it, but RC1 just flies," said Lars Riehn, president of infoWAN, a Microsoft Gold Certified advanced infrastructure partner in Munich, Germany. "I am still finding minor issues here and there, but nothing truly major. What I am hoping for is that all the hardware vendors now start publishing Vista drivers for their hardware and ideally even more drivers get included in the RTM version of Vista."

One consultant said RC1 is not yet fully optimized but gives partners and customers a good working copy for testing features and identifying the system resources they will need to run the upgrade.

"I have had RC1 for a couple of weeks now installed on both a laptop and desktop and it's a big improvement over Beta 2 as far as stability and performance are concerned. Both the clean install and upgrade scenarios worked on each machine and on a machine that would not successfully install Beta 2, said the consultant, who asked not be named. "I would not want to run it with less than 1GB of memory, probably 2GB. Processor speed is less of an issue. HDD footprint with everything installed is pretty large, so I'm thinking at least 60GB for a laptop, maybe 80GB."