Windows Vista: It's A Date

During a briefing last week, Microsoft executives said the feature-complete version of the Vista beta test code would be finished by the end of the year. Executives declined to provide an exact release date for Beta 2 but hinted it could be sometime in the first quarter of 2006.

Observers said advances made by Google in recent months—and the release of Mozilla&'s Firefox 1.5 last week—are driving a new urgency within Microsoft to broadcast the message that its own search technology and Internet Explorer 7.0 in Vista will be in customers&' hands soon.

The first beta was made available in July but lacked several key features, including a working implementation of its Virtual Folder search, store and organize technology. Microsoft then released two Community Technology Previews for developers—one in September and one in October—that added more features, but it opted to skip the November CTP. Microsoft said the next CTP would come in December and all features will be in the code for testing early next year.

John Dodge, solutions architect at Foedus, New York, said many people like Google and Firefox, but integration of those features into the operating system remains a big advantage for Microsoft.

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“It&'s mostly grassroots adoption,” he said. “None of my enterprise clients have switched to Firefox as their standard enterprise browser, and only some IT departments are experimenting with Google search.”

Still, Google and Mozilla offer advanced searching and new Internet technologies such as Ajax-style support Microsoft does not yet offer.

According to NetApplications, a firm that tracks browser usage, Firefox&'s browser share inched up to 9 percent in November while Microsoft&'s IE share declined to 86 percent.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant suffered a blow after announcing last year it would cut its WinFS file system, search and store technology out of Windows Vista. And observers say Microsoft may have to cut other planned features to meet its ship date.

But it is taking steps to minimize damage. Microsoft debuted Virtual Folders for Vista last April and announced Windows Desktop Search for Enterprise Deployment. Microsoft also plans to offer a version of IE 7.0 for Windows XP.