It's part of Microsoft's new software testing plan for Windows Vista and Longhorn Server that its customers see a lot more buggy code -- but not quite in the way that you might think.
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The software company has changed its process for giving out code. The beta trial seems to be old fashioned these days. Now, Microsoft will provide regular drops of code out of its development lab for the purpose of getting earlier feedback, said Jim Allchin, Microsoft's co-president of the company's platform products and services division, in an interview with SearchWin2000.com.
These drops, called Community Technical Previews (CTPs), should work out to everyone's benefit if everybody is clear on what they are getting. "First, it's buggy code, but [customers] are seeing the features earlier," Allchin said.
"Features may come and go," he said. Indeed, though Allchin said the next CTP for Windows Vista will be "feature complete," there is always a chance that a feature can be eliminated if it presents a problem. But Allchin said it's more likely that features will be tweaked, which he says is already happening constantly.
"We got feedback on the way [Internet] Explorer works, and we focused too much on virtual folders," Allchin said. "[Vista] will be more like XP with virtual folders laid on top because people were thinking we went too far."
There was a Vista CTP last September and another one last December. Another CTP is expected this quarter and then another in the second quarter this year. The next CTP will also align Vista with a CTP of Longhorn Server. Usually about 100,000 people get the CTPs, but Microsoft targets a subset of all the testers from which it wants to receive feedback.
For the next CTP, for example, feedback will come from members of the enterprise who are in the Technology Adoption Program, one of Microsoft's elite groups of beta testers. Following the mid-year CTP, there will be a customer preview program that will go out to consumers.
The CTP expected later this quarter is the equivalent of being the last of beta 2 and the first release candidate rolled into one, Allchin said. For Longhorn Server, beta milestones are not completely gone. The code that becomes available in the second quarter of 2006 will be considered beta 2. A third beta will come sometime in the second half of 2006. The platform won't ship until sometime in 2007.
"Things are looking good in this new engineering approach," he said. "Features are in earlier. Today we have a lot of bugs, but we've got months to work on it. We will do regular CTP builds and have quick turnarounds. We are still on tap to ship before the end of the year."