No community technology preview will be released before its time. But the time is set for Windows Vista.
In the first of what are to be regularly scheduled conference calls, Amitabh Shrivastava, corporate vice president of the Windows core operating system development division, gave an update on the progress of Windows Vista, the next version of the OS expected to ship mid-2006.
In case there were any doubts, Shrivastava repeated it three times in the course of the call: Vista is on track to be released to manufacturing in the middle of next year in time for installation on machines going on sale during the holiday shopping season.
But Microsoft has moved off the monthly schedule of CTPs it promised at the Professional Developers Conference.
Shrivastava cautioned that CTPs are designed to provide insight in the form of a snapshot of parts of the code, but they don't constitute successions of steadily improving, fuller-featured versions of what will be the final release.
Microsoft instituted CTPs as a way to get earlier customer feedback, as well as to help customers understand where development was going, and which of their applications might break.
The first Vista beta was released in July, and another is expected early next year.
Beta versions are more stable that the CTPs, the last of which was released on Oct. 17. Microsoft released a November CTP internally, but doesn't plan to share it publicly.
Shrivastava said the team was accelerating development to get most features code-complete by the end of December -- and all features integrated into the product early next year -- in time to let customers test with code that reflected the actual product.
He wouldn't detail which features would be in the next CTP or exactly when it would be released.
Microsoft has moved from a calendar schedule for releases to a "quality-based schedule," that is, releasing a preview when the code reaches a high enough quality level.
CTPs will also be released to garner the kinds of feedback that the developers need at that particular time. "We're doing it when it makes most sense to do it, rather than on an arbitrary date," Shrivastava said.
The change reflects deep transformations in the way Microsoft develops software. Previously, code would be checked in, then tested and debugged. Now, "quality gates" catch bad code within each feature before it's checked in.
"So far, it has been quite effective in improving our agility, that is, our ability to shift in response to customer feedback while making product milestones and maintaining quality," he said.
Nor would Shrivastava give a guess on the release date for beta 2. Evidently, Microsoft is in no hurry.
The main purpose of a beta is for broad customer feedback, but the CTP program is taking the place and providing better feedback sooner, he said.
"Beta 2 is still an important milestone for broad customer testing, but it's less important for customer feedback."
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