WinInfo Daily Update, May 10, 2006: Windows Vista Beta 2 Shapes Up for May 23 Release at WinHEC

Windows Vista Beta 2 Shapes Up for May 23 Release at WinHEC

As I've previously reported, Microsoft had planned to ship a variant of Windows Vista build 5381 as Beta 2, the version that the company will be delivering to millions of consumers later this month. However, problems with build 5381 have changed those plans somewhat, along with the schedule for getting Beta 2 into the hands of users. Last weekend, Microsoft surprisingly issued a variant of build 5381 to testers after previously noting that it wouldn't ship any more interim builds before Beta 2.

Now, Microsoft plans to release a DVD of Vista Beta 2 and Office 2007 Beta 2 to attendees of the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) on May 23. Meanwhile, users who wish to obtain a DVD version of Beta 2 via the company's public Web site will have to wait until May 27. Microsoft expects to eventually deliver this version to millions of people.

When asked about the delivery of Beta 2, the company didn't offer any specifics. "We're on track to deliver Beta 2 this quarter, as promised," a Microsoft representative told me. Sources tell me, however, that part of the push behind Beta 2 will be aimed at dispelling rumors propagated by Gartner that Microsoft will delay Vista beyond January 2007. To that end, the software giant will be heavily promoting Beta 2 to users so they can see for themselves how refined Vista has already become.

As for build 5381, Microsoft had iterated through several point releases for that version and finally moved on to subsequent builds. Last weekend, Microsoft shipped build 5382 internally, and it expects to ship build 5383 early next week. Now I'm told that a build 5383 variant (perhaps 5383.5) will likely be declared as Beta 2 sometime late next week. Concurrently, Microsoft is working on post-Beta 2 (or release candidate 1--RC1) builds of Vista as well. Those builds are in the 542x range, my sources say.

Microsoft Announces Halo 3, Anywhere Live Service, Vista Games

For the first time, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates attended the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) video game conference, and it should come as no surprise that the company commemorated the occasion by revealing what is easily the most eagerly-awaited video game at the moment: Halo 3, the third and final episode of the hugely successful Halo trilogy, for the Xbox 360. Microsoft will ship it in 2007.

The company showed off a promotion trailer for Halo 3, which did little to reveal the game but much to whet the appetites of eager gamers worldwide. Awash in crashing music, the Halo 3 trailer follows curiously immobile Master Chief as he surveys the final battle between humans and the alien Covenant as it begins on Earth. "This is the way the world ends," the voice of Master Chief's AI companion, Cortana, intones as the Halo 3 logo fills the screen. For gamers, it's an almost religious experience, dampened only by the fact that Halo 3 won't ship in time for this year's holiday selling season.

But Halo 3 wasn't Microsoft's only announcement at E3. The company showed off exclusive upcoming game titles such as "Gears of War," "Fable 2," and "Forza Motorsports" and several new Xbox Live classic arcade titles. Microsoft says it will make available over 160 games for the Xbox 360 platform by the end of 2006 and that more than 10 million users will be using this platform by the time Sony ships its competing PlayStation 3 (PS3) console.

Microsoft also unveiled a connection between the Xbox 360, Vista, and mobile phones. The Anywhere Live Service extends Xbox Live services so that they are available at any time from a variety of devices. For example, Vista-based game players will be able to compete with Xbox 360 gamers over the Internet. And gamers will be able to use Windows Mobile-compatible cell phones to send messages to other gamers and access their Xbox Live Friends list.

Microsoft also announced a slew of new Xbox 360 hardware accessories, all of which will ship later this year. These include a wireless headset, the HD DVD player (rumored to cost $199), a wireless gaming receiver for Windows that will let Windows game players use the Xbox 360's wireless game controller, the Xbox Live Vision video camera, and a 256MB version of the Xbox 360 Memory Unit.

Windows gamers won't be left in the cold. In addition to making a bridge of sorts between Vista and Xbox 360, Microsoft and its software partners are also supporting Vista with a wide range of compatible game titles, including "Crysis," "Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures," "Flight Simulator X," and "Halo 2." These games will all use the DirectX 10 gaming libraries, which will be exclusive to Vista.

For those who are interested in Halo 3, I've got a screenshot gallery and links to download the game trailer available now on the SuperSite for Windows.

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