Microsoft on Monday shipped a number of important and high-profile pre-release versions of upcoming products to testers. A new version of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) was released to a limited pool of approximately 10,000 testers, while an oddly-named Release Candidate 0 (RC0) version of Windows Server 2008 was released publicly. While Windows 2008 RC0 isn't demonstrably different from a June pre-release drop, the code does include one little gem: The first public version of Microsoft's virtualization solution, codenamed Viridian.
As noted previously, Windows Vista SP1 doesn't include major functional changes that affect end users. Microsoft has instead done a lot of work under the covers to make the system more responsive and reliable in certain situations. The process of resuming from a sleep state is considerably faster, the company reports. Additionally, Microsoft announced that SP1, like previous Windows service packs, will ultimately be delivered to customers via Windows Update. Corporate customers will be able to block the automatic installation of SP1.
Meanwhile, the RC0 version of Windows 2008 consists largely of performance and fit and finish improvements. However, the addition of a preview version of Windows Server Virtualization, codenamed Viridian, is a major and long-awaited release. Customers will need to install an x64 version of Windows 2008 RC0 and follow specific steps to get Viridian installed. I've described this technology and how you can get it installed in a Windows Server Virtualization preview on the SuperSite for Windows.
Both Windows Vista SP1 and Windows 2008 are expected in the first quarter of 2008, alongside a true beta version of Windows Server Virtualization. Before then, however, you can expect a semi-public beta of Vista SP1, which Microsoft says it will deliver by the end of 2007.