VARs Say Vista RC1 Is Solid And More Stable

Release Candidate

After more than a month's worth of testing, partners say Vista Release Candidate 1 is far more solid than Beta 2 and they anticipate shipment of the first Vista Enterprise version in November and for the mass market in January, as Microsoft said last spring.

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

Research firm 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.

"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.

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"Feedback has been pretty positive. I think if there were to be a slip we would likely hear about it soon," Sherlund said. "[There may be] a month or so slip, possibly, but I think it is beginning to look like it [is] on or close to schedule now."

Despite some remaining driver issues and bugs— one solution provider described it as the buggiest prerelease code he'd every seen—at least 20 other Microsoft solution providers and system builders that have tested the Vista RC1 code cite much progress over Beta 2 and more stability.

"We've seen a marked improvement in Vista RC1 and are very happy with the progress," said Neil Rosenberg, president and CEO of Morris Plains, N.J.-based Quality Technology Solutions. "The driver support is significantly enhanced vs. the late Beta 2 builds [and] stability and performance is much better and the overall experience is cleaner," Rosenberg added.

"RC1 is surprisingly complete, stable, fast and usable. It is a great move forward from Beta 2. 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."

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft first made its 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 during the first week of September.

Microsoft then updated RC1 on Sept. 22 with Build 5728. The most recent build incorporates some changes to the install and upgrade process, offers new configurations in addition to the ability to turn off the familiar Windows jungle at boot-up.

Microsoft will distribute another one or two release candidates before shipping, but all systems are go for a November launch, expected to be held in New York, sources said.

To prepare their system builders and solution providers, both Microsoft and Intel, Santa Clara, Calif., will sponsor a joint road show. On the road show, the companies will demonstrate the benefits of running Vista with Intel's recently released Intel Core 2 Duo processors, Intel vPro technology and Office 2007. Consumers are expected to be the first to adopt, but business customers are expected to follow late next year, observers say.

"Businesses want a clear value proposition and BitLocker. [And the] different security models and mobile capabilities [in Vista] all have a clear, solid value proposition," said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president at Intel.

"But it's a conservative customer base so as a result it'll be late 2007 and 2008 when the business impact will start being felt," Gelsinger added.

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

"It works. Not only does it work, but it works very well The interface is as good as the best from Apple, in fact probably better," said Dermott Renner, owner of Starsoft Computers, Auckland, New Zealand.

Still, some are concerned about availability of drivers for third-party applications. "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. 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 third-party vendors to do their drivers," Huckaby said.