Windows Vista series.
|Technical and core system|
|Security and safety|
|Management and administration|
|Editions and pricing|
Development of Windows Vista occurred over the span of five and a half years, starting in earnest in May 2001, prior to the release of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, and continuing until November 2006.
Microsoft's originally expected to ship the new version sometime late in 2003 as a minor step between Windows XP and "Blackcomb". Vista's original codename, "Longhorn", was an allusion to this plan: While Whistler and Blackcomb are large ski resorts in British Columbia, Longhorn is the name of a bar between the two mountains that Whistler's visitors pass to reach Blackcomb. Gradually, "Longhorn" assimilated many of the important new features and technologies slated for "Blackcomb", resulting in the release date being pushed back a few times. Many of Microsoft's developers were also re-tasked with improving the security of Windows XP. Faced with ongoing delays and concerns about feature creep, Microsoft announced on August 27, 2004 that it was making significant changes. "Longhorn" development basically started afresh, building on the Windows Server 2003 codebase, and re-incorporating only the features that would be intended for an actual operating system release. Some previously announced features, such as WinFS and NGSCB, were dropped or postponed.
After "Longhorn" was named Windows Vista in mid-2005, an unprecedented beta-test program was started, which has involved hundreds of thousands of volunteers and companies. Between September 2005 and October 2006, Microsoft released regular Community Technology Previews (CTP) to beta testers, which included two release candidates that were made available to the general public. Development of Windows Vista came to a conclusion with the November 8, 2006 announcement of its completion by co-president of Windows development, Jim Allchin.
2002: Early developmentEdit
The early development stages of the next version of Windows were generally characterized as being incremental improvements and updates to Windows XP. During this period, Microsoft was fairly quiet about what was being worked on, as their marketing and public relations focus was more strongly focused on Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003, which was released in April 2003. Occasional builds of Longhorn were leaked onto popular file sharing networks such as IRC, Wikipedia:BitTorrent, eDonkey and various newsgroups, and so most of what is known about builds prior to the first sanctioned development release of Longhorn in May 2003, is derived from these builds.
Most builds of Longhorn and Vista were identified by a label that was always displayed in the bottom-right corner of the desktop. A typical build label would look like "Build 3683.Lab06_N.020923-1821". Higher build numbers didn't automatically mean that the latest features from every development team at Microsoft was included. Typically, a team working on a certain feature or subsystem would generate their own working builds which developers would test with, and when the code was deemed stable, all the changes would be incorporated back into the main development tree at once. At Microsoft, a number of "Build labs" exist where the compilation of the entirety of Windows could be performed by a team. The lab in which any given build originated from is shown as part of the build label, and the date and time of the build followed that. Some builds (such as Beta 1 and Beta 2) only display the build label in the version information dialog (Winver).
Build 3663 (build date of July 28, 2002) was the first known build with some leaked screenshots. It was the first sighting of the "Plex" style which Microsoft regarded as a place-holder theme for their development versions, until they were ready to demonstrate Aero. Screenshots of Build 3670 (build date of August 19, 2002) also showed a variation of the Device Manager implemented inside Windows Explorer.
Build 3683 (build date of September 23 2002) was leaked on October 20 2002, and was the first Longhorn build leaked to the Internet. This build was the first of several that had a working title of "Longhorn XP Professional". Visually it was not significantly different from Windows XP, incorporating aesthetic changes and a few new user interface options. A new "Sidebar" was also present, which contained many of the gadgets that would much later be seen in Windows Sidebar, such as an analog clock, slide show, and search capability. An option in this version of the sidebar also made it possible to move the Start button into it, and disable the traditional taskbar entirely. An early revision of WinFS was also included, but very little in the way of a user interface was included, and as such it appeared to early testers to be nothing more than a service that consumed large amounts of memory and processor time. The "Display Properties" control panel was the first significant departure, being built on the new "Avalon" API.
Build 3706 (build date of October 29, 2002) was leaked on May 22, 2004. It was one of the first builds to contain some Desktop Composition Engine (DCE) and Desktop Windows Manager (DWM) features.
Build 3718 (build date of November 19, 2002) was leaked on April 30, 2004. It included the DWM and some early hardware-accelerated Aero effects, such as alpha transparency and transitions. As a demonstration of the DCE's capabilities, programs literally flipped into the taskbar and twisted as they were minimized.
2003 and early 2004: New technologyEdit
After several months of relatively little news or activity from Microsoft with Longhorn, Build 4008 (with a build date of February 19, 2003) made an appearance on the Internet around February 28, 2003. It was also privately handed out to a select group of software developers. As an evolutionary release over build 3683, it contained a number of small improvements, including a modified blue "Plex" theme and a new, simplified Windows Image-based installer that operates in graphical mode from the outset, and completed an install of the operating system in approximately one third the time of Windows XP on the same hardware. An optional "new taskbar" was introduced that was thinner than the previous build and displayed the time differently.
The most notable visual and functional difference, however, came with Windows Explorer. The incorporation of the Plex theme made blue the dominant color of the entire application. The Windows XP-style task pane was almost completely replaced with a large horizontal pane that appeared under the toolbars. A new search interface allowed for filtering of results, searching of Windows help, and natural-language queries that would be used to integrate with WinFS. The animated search characters were also removed. The "view modes" were also replaced with a single slider that would resize the icons in real-time, in list, thumbnail, or details mode, depending on where the slider was. File metadata was also made more visible and more easily editable, with more active encouragement to fill out missing pieces of information. Also of note was the conversion of Windows Explorer to being a .NET application.
Build 4015 (build date of March 28, 2003) was leaked to the Internet on April 28, 2003. A number of features Microsoft had been working on were rolled into this build, such as a range of parental controls, a lot of additional configurability for the sidebar (including being able to put it below the start bar at the bottom of the screen), and the notion of "Libraries" (later known as virtual folders) of files. These libraries collected content from around the hard drive. The user could then filter this content and save it in a folder. Microsoft had originally intended to replace all special shell folders (My Documents, My Music, etc.) with virtual folders. However, this change was deemed too drastic and was dropped after Beta 1's release in mid-2005. This build was also notable for the debut of the boot screen progress bar that is seen in the final release (though 4015's version was blue, not green). A new Download Manager shell location suggested that the OS (and Internet Explorer 7) would get a Mozilla-style download manager. This feature was also dropped. Significant memory leak problems with Windows Explorer and the Sidebar made this build difficult to use, which resulted in some third-party hacks to mitigate the problem. The back-end database of Outlook Express changed completely, and became dependent on WinFS to store its email. WinFS itself still had significant performance and memory usage issues, and so it became common for testers to disable WinFS entirely, thus rendering Outlook Express inoperative.
At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) conference in May 2003, Microsoft gave their first public demonstrations of the new Desktop Window Manager and Aero. The demonstrations were done on a revised build 4015 which was never released. A number of sessions for developers and hardware engineers at the conference focused on these new features, as well as the Next Generation Secure Computing Base (previously known as "Palladium"), which at the time was Microsoft's proposed solution for creating a secure computing environment whereby any given component of the system could be deemed "trusted". Also at this conference, Microsoft reiterated their roadmap for delivering Longhorn, pointing to an "early 2005" release date.
Build 4028 (build date of July 1, 2003) was the first known Server build, and was based on Windows Server.NET RC1, which later became Windows Server 2003. Traditional client bits, such as visual style and look, were present but disabled by default. Build 4029 (build date of June 19, 2003), was leaked on September 23, 2003. This build contained few of the technologies new to build 4015. Windows Explorer went through a number of other changes. Larger image and video previews were displayed in a tooltip when the mouse hovered over a file, column-level filtering of results was introduced, and overall performance of Explorer was somewhat improved over build 4015, though the memory leak issues were not entirely resolved. There was also a new analog clock user interface. Batch image processing of images was also introduced, making it possible for a user to rotate a number of images at once.
Build 4029's name was displayed as "onghornLay rofessionalPay" (Pig Latin for Longhorn Professional) in various places around the operating system. While some had presumed that screenshots of this build were fake because of this seemingly obvious mistake, Microsoft later explained that this was merely a test of some new code to locate and reduce the number of places in the operating system code that the name was defined.
Build 4033 (build date of July 17 2003) was similar to 4029, but contained some UI improvements, including an updated Plex theme.
Official PDC 2003 build (build date of October 1, 2003 with a build number of 4051) was not released to the general public, but it did leak on October 20, 2003. It introduced a new Slate theme. Some visual changes included:
- Added the Documents folder, for sharing documents with other users.
- Added the Photos and Videos folder, for sharing pictures and videos with other users.
- My Contacts was replaced by Contacts.
- My Computer was replaced by Computer.
- My Network Places was replaced by Network Places.
Build 4053 (build date of October 22, 2003) was leaked on March 2 2004 and had some minor changes.
Build 4074 (build date of April 25 2004) - Official WinHEC 2004 preview build. Leaked in May 2004. This build introduced a new Jade theme, and replaced many XP icons with new Longhorn icons. Also, the font Segoe UI was introduced for the Jade theme.
In May 2004, Microsoft changed its plans to include the Next-Generation Secure Computing Base technology with Longhorn. The technology, better known by its original code-name of "Palladium", had garnered much criticism from analysts, security specialists and researchers, and was often cited by advocates of non-Microsoft operating systems as a reason to migrate to their preferred platform. Ross Anderson, for example, published a paper, collating many of these concerns and criticisms as part of a larger analysis on Trusted Computing. In light of a large amount of negative response not only from analysts, but enterprise customers and software developers, Microsoft shelved many aspects of the NGSCB project for an indefinite period of time. The only aspect of NGSCB that was included with the final release of the operating system is "BitLocker", which can make use of a Trusted Platform Module chip to facilitate secure startup and full-drive encryption.
Build 4083 (build date of May 16 2004) - Leaked on November 10 2004, and was the last leaked 64-bit Server 2003 RC1-based build. Both Sidebar and WinFS were dropped from this release. Considered highly unstable, including the absence of programs in the start menu and driver and installation issues.
Mid-2004 to Mid-2005: Development "reset"Edit
By the end of 2003, it had become obvious to the Windows team at Microsoft that they were losing sight of what needed to be done to complete the next version of Windows and ship it to customers. Internally, some Microsoft employees were describing the Longhorn project as "another Cairo" or "Cairo.NET", referring to the Cairo development project that the company embarked on through the first half of the 1990s, which never resulted in a shipping operating system (though nearly all the technologies developed in that time did end up in Windows 95 and Windows NT.
In a September 23 2005 front-page article on The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft co-president Jim Allchin, who had overall responsibility for the development and delivery of Windows, explained how development of Longhorn was "crashing into the ground" due in large part to the haphazard methods by which features were introduced and integrated into the core of the operating system, without a clear focus on an end-product. In December 2003, Allchin enlisted the help of two other senior executives, Brian Valentine and Amitabh Srivastava, the former being experienced with shipping software at Microsoft, most notably Windows Server 2003, and the latter having spent his career at Microsoft researching and developing methods of producing high-quality testing systems. Srivastava employed a team of core architects to visually map out the entirety of the Windows operating system, and to proactively work towards a development process that would enforce high levels of code quality, reduce interdependencies between components, and in general, "not make things worse with Vista". These things, in conjunction with the fact that many of Microsoft's most skilled developers and engineers had been working on Windows Server 2003, led to the decision to "reset" development of Longhorn, building on the same code that would become Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, instead of the older Windows XP. This change, announced internally to Microsoft employees on August 26 2004, began in earnest in September, though it would take several more months before the new development process and build methodology would be used by all of the development teams. A number of complaints came from individual developers, and Bill Gates himself, that the new development process was going to be prohibitively difficult to work within. Changes at the build labs also resulted in a period of time of several months where no builds of Longhorn were leaked onto the Internet.
Build 3790 (build date of September 7 2004) is notable, as it was the first build of Longhorn based on the Server 2003 codebase, but with the Windows XP interface. Successive internal builds over several months gradually integrated a lot of the fundamental work that had been done over the previous three years, but with much stricter rules about what code could be brought into the main builds. Builds in this period of time were described variously as Longhorn "D1", and as Milestone 8 / 9, depending on whether the new or old build tree was being worked on. Evidence of a similar build marked as Build 5000 (built one day later) has also been found.
Build 5048 (built on April 1 2005) was the official WinHEC 2005 preview build, described as the Longhorn Developer Preview, and made available to WinHEC attendees on April 24 2005. It was the only build from this time period that was made available by Microsoft; it was not officially distributed outside of WinHEC, but the build quickly appeared on file sharing networks. The Aero visual style made its first appearance in this build, and the Desktop Window Manager was present but disabled and hidden by default. At the keynote presentation, Bill Gates also announced that many of the WinFX developer APIs that were originally planned exclusively for Longhorn were going to be backported to Windows XP and Server 2003, and that the final user interface for Windows would not be seen for a while longer. Other features such as device-independent resolutions, rasterized icons, virtual folders, and registry virtualization were discussed as well.
Build 5048's closer resemblance to Windows XP than to the prior Longhorn builds from 2003 surprised many, leading well-known Windows enthusiast Paul Thurrott to write: "My thoughts are not positive, not positive at all. This is a painful build to have to deal with after a year of waiting, a step back in some ways. I hope Microsoft has surprises up their sleeves. This has the makings of a train wreck." Months later, Thurrott stated that the Vista development process has since recovered in the more recent builds.
Mid-2005 to November 2006: Windows Vista Edit
By the beginning of July 2005, having painted itself into a corner, so to speak, by choosing names like Windows Me and XP for previous client releases of Windows, Microsoft now had to find an even more interesting name for "Longhorn", to avoid the perception that this was a boring release (supposing that Windows 2006 would sound less exciting than Windows XP). The company considered several names from simple numbers such as "Windows Seven" or "Windows 7", or letters (like XP), to other fanciful, inventful names. In the end, Microsoft chose Windows Vista, believing it to be a "wonderful intersection of what the product really does, what Windows stands for, and what resonates with customers, and their needs." Group Project Manager Greg Sullivan told Paul Thurrott—"You want the PC to adapt to you and help you cut through the clutter to focus on what’s important to you. That's what Windows Vista is all about: "bringing clarity to your world." (a reference to the three marketing points of Vista—Clear, Connected, Confident), so you can focus on what matters to you." Microsoft co-president Jim Allchin also loved the name, saying that "Vista" creates the right imagery for the new product capabilities and inspires the imagination with all the possibilities of what can be done with Windows—making people’s passions come alive."
Windows Vista Beta 1 (build 5112, build date of July 20, 2005) was released on July 27 2005, and was available to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet subscribers as well as a select group of Microsoft Beta testers.
Compared with the WinHEC build released earlier in the year, Vista Beta 1 was a large advancement in introducing new user interface features. The Windows Shell was drastically changed yet again, introducing virtual folders, a new search interface, a number of new high-resolution icons, and a revamped Windows Explorer interface which did away with the menus and most of the toolbar buttons that were present in previous versions. Beta 1 also introduced many of the underlying technologies slated for Vista, including the new networking and audio stacks, parental controls, and fairly complete working build of .NET Framework 3.0, then still referred to as WinFX.
Community Technology PreviewsEdit
Build 5219 (build date of August 30 2005), Microsoft started releasing regular Community Technical Previews (CTP) to beta testers, with less stability work made to them than actual betas. Build 5219, also known as CTP1 and September CTP, was distributed among 2005 PDC attendees on September 13 2005, and has been released to Microsoft Beta testers and MSDN subscribers. This was the first public "Ultimate Edition" build, and included Smart Fetch. Although not enabled by default, this refresh saw the return of the Windows Sidebar, which had been removed as part of the development reset, and the introduction of Desktop Gadgets, both of which are part of Microsoft gadgets line of mini-applications, which are similar to Yahoo Widget Engine's widgets. Microsoft has stated that these Gadgets will be available for download at Microsoft Gadgets website. This build also supported a new version of Windows Media Center code-named "Diamond" (previously available only in Windows XP Media Center Edition). Although Microsoft has stated that WinFS will not make its wide-reaching debut in Windows Vista, users of the 5219 build noticed that WinFS was in fact included in that version. Several Windows 'rumor' sites and newsgroups such as Neowin and Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows speculated that WinFS would in fact be ready on time for Windows Vista's release, but this turned out not to be the case when Microsoft cancelled WinFS in June 2006.
Build 5231 (build date of October 4 2005), also known as CTP2 or the October 2005 CTP, was released to MSDN subscribers and Microsoft Beta Testers on October 17 2005. This "Ultimate" build had more stability than the previous leaked build and introduced Windows Media Player version 11.
Windows Vista TAP Preview (built on November 17 2005 with a build number of 5259) was released to TAP members, four days after its originally announced release date of November 18 as a November CTP. Microsoft cancelled the November CTP due to its instability, and decided to release it only to TAP members. Sidebar was temporarily removed; the build had a few new UI changes, including the ability to change the color and clarity of the UI. Windows AntiSpyware (soon to be "Windows Defender") was integrated. Also, this build featured an updated version of Windows Mail. It was an IDW build and therefore had not gone through the CTP testing process. It leaked to the Internet on December 7 2005.
December CTP (built on December 14 2005 with a build number of 5270), was released to testers and MSDN on December 19 2005 and was very close to feature-complete. Since then, the feature complete build was delayed until late January, 2006. In this build, Windows AntiSpyware was renamed Windows Defender, and IE7 had a new icon/logo. There were some minor UI changes.
February CTP (built on February 17 2006 with a build number of 5308), was released on February 22 2006 and was the first feature-complete CTP. This build was meant for enterprises. It was also the first build to have the upgrade compatibility. This build, according to Microsoft, had all but one feature (which should appear in the next CTP) that customers will see in the final release. Vista is still in the stage of development so the final build may have more improvements than previously expected. An unstaged revision was made to this build and was released on February 28 2006 as build 5308.60 (built on February 23), which was released as a result of Windows Server "Longhorn" having many issues.
At the Intel Developer Forum on March 9 2006, Microsoft announced a change in their plans to support EFI in Windows Vista. The UEFI 2.0 specification (which replaces EFI 1.10) was not completed until early 2006, and at the time of Microsoft's announcement, no firmware manufacturers had completed a production implementation which could be used for testing. As a result, the decision was made to postpone the introduction of UEFI support to Windows; instead, UEFI on 64-bit platforms would be included in a future update to Vista, as well as Windows Server "Longhorn". 32-bit UEFI will not be supported, as Microsoft does not expect many such systems to be built as the market moves to 64-bit processors.
February CTP Refresh (built on March 21 2006 with a build number of 5342) was released March 24 2006. This build was shipped to technical beta testers and some corporate customers by Microsoft and was being used as a testing board for the extensive feedback they got from the February CTP. They described this release as an "External Developer Workstation", with the intent of providing an interim build between CTPs. Microsoft claimed it was still on track to deliver the next CTP in the second quarter, the build that will be the last in the Beta 2 fork. The build included minor UI changes, most notably improvements to the Media Center, new Aero and Aurora effects, a faster setup process, some new Sidebar gadgets, and slight improvements in overall performance and stability. Paint was also slightly improved, there's a new screenshot snapping/saving tool included, and a slightly redesigned Network Center. This build did not meet CTP quality measurements, and was available only in Ultimate Edition, for both 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) systems.
April EDW (built on April 19 2006 with a build number of 5365), which was released on April 21 2006, introduced more changes to visual user interface elements, and to the behavior of User Account Control. A number of new backgrounds were also introduced, and two new screensavers were added as well. The Sidebar was enabled by default, as was automatic defragmentation of the hard drive. Hold'em, a game that shipped with some previous CTPs, was dropped due to apparent "political sensitivity" issues; Microsoft is planning on offering it as a separate web download after Vista's release (it became part of Ultimate Extras, only available for the Ultimate Edition).
Windows Vista Beta 2 Preview (built on May 1 2006 with a build number of 5381) leaked on May 3 2006 and was officially released on May 6, 2006 to Microsoft's technical beta testers. It featured mostly performance tweaks and only a few minor changes compared to build 5365. With this build, Microsoft entered Beta 2 "escrow".
Windows Vista Beta 2 (built on May 18 2006 with a build number of 5384), was released to Microsoft Developer Network subscribers (the first since 5308) and Microsoft Connect testers on May 23 2006 in conjunction with Bill Gates's keynote presentation at the WinHEC 2006 conference. On June 6, Microsoft extended the availability of Beta 2 to all users, making Vista available as a free download in several languages from their web site. Some technology web sites described this release as "the largest download event in software history".
In June, Microsoft made two significant changes to their plans for Windows Vista. One issue, the inclusion of XML Paper Specification support in Vista and Microsoft Office 2007, had become a major point of dispute with Adobe Systems. When it was first introduced May 2005, XPS (known at the time as "Metro") was characterized as a "PDF-killer", but an Adobe representative stated that they were "not threatened" by its addition to "Longhorn". However, a year later, Adobe had changed their stance, and saw the inclusion of the new document format as an anti-competitive attack on their Portable Document Format format. While Microsoft refused to remove XPS altogether, noting that it is at the core of Vista's print spooling system, they have offered the ability to system builders and OEMs to remove any user-visible aspects of the document format from the operating system. A few days later, it was announced that PC-to-PC Sync would not ship with Windows Vista.
On June 14 2006, Windows developer Philip Su posted a blog entry which decried the development process of Windows Vista, stating that "the code is way too complicated, and that the pace of coding has been tremendously slowed down by overbearing process. "The same post also described Windows Vista as having approximately 50 million lines of code, with about 2,000 developers working on the product.
Build 5456 (build date of June 20 2006) was released on June 24, 2006. Some of the new features included a revamped Aero subsystem, and a completely overhauled and significantly less obtrusive User Account Control interface. "List view" in Windows Explorer was brought back, after having been removed in Beta 1. Microsoft developer Ben Betz later explained in a blog entry that, while they felt that removing List mode made sense based on usability research and its inability to support Windows Explorer's new "grouping" feature, the feature was restored based on a great deal of feedback from beta testers.
The release notes for the build state that the Time Zone bug that plagued almost all previous builds of Windows Vista had been patched, and quite a few issues in the Regional Settings and IME had also been resolved. A new "Windows Aero" mouse pointer scheme was introduced, which introduced anti-aliasing to the mouse pointer for the first time, and many of the remaining Windows XP-style icons have been replaced with new icons. The disk space used by a clean installation was also significantly reduced.
Build 5472 (build date of July 13 2006) was released on July 17 2006. Aside from incorporating a number of bug fixes and localization improvements, the build also introduced a revised "Basic" theme that replaces the gray theme seen in previous builds with a light blue theme. The Network Center was significantly revised as well, collating more status information in one place, and reducing the number of steps to get to most configuration options. More desktop backgrounds and icons were introduced, and Flip3D saw some layout tweaks. A new "Windows Aero" mouse cursor is set by default. The build was a huge performance improvement over Beta 2 and was comparable to and possibly even faster than that of Windows XP.
During a demonstration of the speech recognition feature new to Windows Vista at Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting on July 27 2006, the software recognized the phrase "Dear mom" as "Dear aunt". After several failed attempts to correct the error, the sentence eventually became "Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all". A developer with Vista's speech recognition team later explained that there was a bug with the build of Vista that was causing the microphone gain level to be set very high, resulting in the audio being received by the speech recognition software to be "incredibly distorted".
On August 8 2006 the Microsoft Security Response Center provided "critical" security fixes for Windows Vista beta 2, making it the first Microsoft product to get security updates while still in beta.
Build 5536 (build date of August 21, 2006) was released on August 24, 2006, and between August 29 and August 31 to the first 100,000 users who downloaded it from the Microsoft site. Among notable changes, it featured new ties to the Windows Live online services by new icons in the Welcome Center, minor updates to the Aero appearance with a slightly more bluish tint to the glass effect, big speed improvements (including setup speed), many bug fixes and further tweaked anti-aliasing in the Flip 3D feature. It was released publicly on August 29 2006.
Release Candidate 1 (RC1) (built on August 29, 2006 with a build number of 5600.16384) was released to a select group of beta testers on September 1, 2006. On September 6, RC1 was released to MSDN and Technet subscribers, as well as registered Customer Preview Program (CPP) members with Beta 2 PID's. On September 14, Microsoft re-opened the CPP to new members. The CPP ended on November 26 2006.
The public release of Release Candidate 1 resulted in a number of extensive reviews and analyses on various technology news web sites, both immediately after its release, and in the weeks following. Ars Technica's Ken Fisher wrote that performance had improved significantly over Beta 2, suggesting that faster machines may perform better than Windows XP; he also criticised the usefulness of the Windows Sidebar and the continued intrusiveness of User Account Control. CRN's review noted five specific categories of improvements to Release Candidate 1: Installation speed, device driver support, performance improvements in several components, security, and multimedia capabilities. Criticism of Vista's user interface arose as well, with Chris Pirillo describing the near-final state as "sloppy."
Build 5700 (build date of August 10, 2006), the first build of the RTM branch, was shown at the Student Day Presentation of Microsoft Tech-Ed 2006 in Australia. It appeared to run faster than the previous Pre-RC1 build 5472 with a few UI improvements. A higher build number does not necessarily indicate a newer build. Microsoft began work on the RTM branch at the same time as it was wrapping up the RC1 branch, allowing for mainstream RC1 developers to more easily "flow" into the new development stage. This parallel development helps explain why build 5700 is older than even some pre-RC1 builds.
Build 5728 (build date of September 17, 2006) was released on September 22, 2006 to technical beta participants. The following day, Microsoft released a 32-bit version of the build to the public, with a 64-bit version arriving on September 25. On October 1, Microsoft reached its goals for program participation and no longer offered the build to the public. In response to a significant amount of feedback from RC1 testers, 5728 contained many improvements, one of which was the inclusion of a check box in the Sound properties that allowed the user to disable the Windows Vista startup sound. The Welcome Center was also improved with new icons, eliminating the use of one icon for several different items, and all of the old icons in the User folder were replaced. With this build, Microsoft neared its goal of Vista installing in 15 minutes, with some reviewers reporting that 5728 took as little as 16 minutes to do a clean install. However, performing an upgrade installation from Windows XP was still slow, sometimes taking more than an hour to complete.
Release Candidate 2 (RC2) (built on October 3, 2006 with a build number of 5744.16384), was released to CPP members, TAP testers, MSDN/Technet subscribers, and other technical beta testers on Friday, October 6, 2006, and was available for download until October 9. Because of an aggressive development schedule, this was the final build that would be officially released to the general public for testing. Nevertheless, all pre-release product keys will work until the final RTM build. Several testers reported that RC2 was faster and more stable than build 5728. However, because RC2, which was a regular interim build, and not a major milestone as the name suggests, was not as rigorously tested as RC1, RC1 may have been more stable in certain situations. This build fixed many compatibility issues that plagued previous builds. Vista's GUI, which continued to be improved, contained some minor tweaks, one of the more prominent of which was the new ability to customize the color, but not the transparency, of maximized windows. In previous builds, windows became predominantly black when maximized, an effect that could not be altered by users. A Control Panel icon for Windows Sideshow was also added.
Because a release to manufacturing (RTM) build is the final version of code shipped to retailers and other distributors, the purpose of a pre-RTM build was to eliminate any last "show-stopper" bugs that may have prevented the code from responsibly being shipped to customers, as well as anything else that consumers may have found annoying. Thus, it is unlikely that any major new features will be introduced; instead, work would focus on Vista's "fit-and-finish". In just a few days, developers had managed to drop Vista's bug count from over 2470 on September 22 to just over 1400 by the time RC2 shipped in early October. However, they still had a ways to go before Vista was ready to RTM. Microsoft's internal processes required Vista's bug count to drop to 500 or fewer before the product could go into escrow for RTM. For most of these builds, only 32-bit versions were released.
Build 5808 (build date of October 12 2006) was released to TAP testers on October 19 2006. This build was notable because it was the first build released to testers since Microsoft entered RTM "escrow" with build 5800. This explains why the build numbers jumped from 57xx to 58xx.
Build 5824 (build date of October 17 2006) was released to a wide number of internal testers later that day in the hope that this build would become the final RTM. However, a catastrophic "show-stopper" bug was found that destroyed any system that was upgraded from Windows XP. Only completely reinstalling Windows would fix the computer.
Build 5840 (build date of October 18 2006) was made available to internal testers. According to Paul Thurrott, this build did not contain the major bug in build 5824, and testing produced very positive feedback. This build contained a large number of new and final icons, as well as a new set of final wallpapers, including a new default wallpaper based on the Aurora "swoosh" seen in prior builds.
Release to Manufacturing (RTM) (built on November 1 2006 with a build number of 6000.16386) is the version of Windows Vista that ships to customers. Microsoft announced this build had been finalized on November 8 2006, after over five years of development.
The RTM's build number jumped to 6000 to reflect Vista's internal version number, NT 6.0. Jumping RTM build numbers is common practice among consumer-oriented Windows versions, like Windows 98 (build 1998), Windows 98 SE (build 2222), Windows Me (b.3000) or Windows XP (b.2600), as compared to the business-oriented versions like Windows 2000 (b.2195) or Server 2003 (b.3790). On November 16 2006, Microsoft made the final build available to MSDN and Technet Plus subscribers. A business-oriented Enterprise edition was made available to volume license customers on November 30. Windows Vista was launched for general customer availability on January 30 2007.
- Windows Vista Bug Reports: An Analysis – Robert McLaws' analysis of bug counts through the Windows Vista beta test period
- Windows Vista Builds List – A complete list of every known build of Longhorn and Vista, including build date, leak/release date, and which lab compiled it.
- Windows Vista Localization – Video on the international development of Windows Vista
- Windows Vista: Road to Gold – Paul Thurrott's story of his long journey with the development of Windows Vista (Part 1 of 7).
- Windows Vista Screen Shot Gallery – Screenshots of Windows Vista beta versions and development progress
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