Microsoft Invites More to Join Vista Beta Party

More beta testers are welcome to take the final pre-release version of Windows Vista, Release Candidate 1 (RC1), for a test drive, the Redmond software maker announced on Friday.

RC1 has been available to select testers from the Microsoft Connect beta testing program for the past two weeks. An estimated 2 million beta testers have seen previous builds of Vista. As of Friday, the beta is available to anyone through Microsoft's Customer Preview Program (CPP).

RC1 is available on DVD (the disk is free, but there's a charge for shipping), or as a 3GB download (an .iso file for the 32-bit version). Users who download the .iso file will need a DVD burner to make the install disk. There's also a 4GB 64-bit edition. And RC1 is available in three languages: English, German, and Japanese.

Even though the Microsoft is inviting one and all to join the ranks of Vista beta testers, the Customer Preview Program has a limited capacity, the company says. New participants will be given access to RC1 on a first come, first served basis.

When Microsoft released RC1 earlier this month, the company declared its intention to make the beta available to a broad range of customers and partners in the CPP. In total, Microsoft plans to make Windows Vista RC1 available to more than 5 million customers worldwide.

"Now that we’re expanding the Windows Vista Customer Preview Program, an even broader audience will get to experience just how much Windows Vista has to offer," said Mike Sievert, Vice President of Windows client marketing, Microsoft, at the time. "The expansion of the CPP program really sends a strong message to the industry and our customers: the time to prepare for Windows Vista has arrived."

Microsoft's beta outreach may be breaking new ground: It has been reported that the company plans to bundle RC1 as a "cover mount" DVD attached to 2 million computer magazines. A wide range of application makers and online service provider has engaged in this practice for many years. (AOL was once well known for this practice.) But Microsoft's plan to distribute a beta release of its upcoming OS in this manner may be unprecedented.

Microsoft strongly advises anyone interested Vista RC1 to remember that this is beta code, which should never be used in a production environment or on a primary computer in the home. Users who install the beta as an upgrade over an existing copy of Windows XP can't roll back to their old installations later, and there's no support.

Microsoft is currently planning to make Windows Vista available for volume license customers in November 2006 and for general availability in January 2007.

For system requirements, upgrade limitations, and other details on the expanded beta program, go to the Windows Vista Customer Preview Program Web site.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].