Paul Krill, InfoWorld
Microsoft's December Community Technology Preview (CTP) for the Windows Vista client OS features a renamed version of the company's anti-spyware software. Announced on Monday, the December CTP, known as build 5270, will reach about 500,000 people through avenues such as the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet, according to the company.
The company cited security, performance and mobility as key themes of the CTP, which is available Monday on MSDN and TechNet.
"We are on a path to be code-complete by the end of 2005," said Shanen Boettcher, Microsoft senior director in the company's Windows client group. A code-complete CTP is expected in early 2006, with the general release version of Vista set for the second half of next year.
With the December CTP, Windows AntiSpyware has been renamed Windows Defender. It features improved detection and removal of spyware and malware as well as a redesigned user interface, Boettcher said. Microsoft describes the anti-spyware offering in the December CTP as a functioning early preview of what will be in the final version.
Also offered in the CTP is BitLocker Drive Encryption, formerly known as full-volume encryption. It provides hardware-based data protection to address the issue of data being accessed from lost or stolen machines. The entire Windows system volume is encrypted to prevent unauthorized access.
Users of the new CTP can apply Group Policy to block installation of removable storage drives.
"This has been a big concern for folks in terms of data leakage," Boettcher said.
With the CTP, Internet Explorer gets support for international domain names as well as protection from spoofing of these domain names.
Advancements in firewall software include bidirectional filtering. Rules set in the Windows Service Hardening platform are enforced to limit the file, registry, and network access. Advanced IPSec (Internet protocol security) is offered, integrated into a single management console with firewall management.
To improve performance and mobility, a single button is being used as an on/off control while a Windows SuperFetch algorithm caches items used most frequently. USB Flash drive can be used to provide additional memory employed by SuperFetch.
The new user interface in build 5270 features improvements in design elements and some consumer-oriented features. The December CTP includes Windows Media Player 11, featuring improvements to the look and feel.
An early version of Aero is highlighted, as well. Aero encompasses a new design philosophy that includes a translucent "glass" appearance of open windows as well as smoother transitions between windows. A re-designed start menu also is part of Aero.
An analyst described the December CTP as a progression toward the final version.
"It's just another release on the road to getting to a fully featured, complete version," said Michael Cherry, lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft, which is a research and analysis firm that independent of Microsoft.
"Certainly, they're starting to add some features that people are going to want to take some time to test such as BitLocker and Windows Defender," Cherry said.
Also featured in build 5270 are greater parental controls, such as the ability to limit the amount of time children can use a computer and integration with ratings boards that assess computer gaming content.