As expected, Microsoft delivered an interim Windows Vista build to testers late Friday, offering them a peek at the work that's been done since the Release Candidate 1 (RC1) build that debuted earlier this month. However, Microsoft has made Vista build 5728 available to a much smaller group of people than it shared RC1 with. The company says it has provided the build to only beta testers, TechNet and MSDN subscribers, close partners, and a random sampling of 100,000 Customer Preview Program (CPP) participants.
"Microsoft is distributing this interim build to provide technical audiences and application developers an opportunity to test their developments against a more current build of Windows Vista," a Microsoft representative told me Friday. "Specifically, Microsoft is looking for new-user feedback on the install and upgrade process and new configurations. Build 5728 also includes ongoing fit and finish work based on feedback Microsoft has received to date on the Release Candidate 1 released on September 1st."
Microsoft noted that build 5728 includes dramatic performance improvements to the setup process, which users will see during both clean installations and upgrades. (I witnessed these improvements in my own tests over the weekend.) Microsoft has also provided a way for users to turn off the startup music, which had been a curiously controversial problem for testers. Beyond that, there are few surprises: The new build is very similar to RC1 and includes just a few minor tweaks and changes.
Because build 5728 is an interim build, Microsoft isn't providing any DVD-based shipments. Instead, testers will have to download the build. Microsoft has asked testers to upgrade to build 5728 from Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), if possible, but also allows upgrades from Vista RC1.
Microsoft says it's still on track to ship Vista to volume license customers in November and to consumers in January. The company expects to finalize Vista on or before October 25. This process is called release to manufacturing (RTM). After Vista's RTM, Microsoft will work on the various Windows Ultimate Extras that will be provided to customers who purchase Vista Ultimate.
For more information about Vista build 5728, please refer to the screenshot galleries that I've posted on the SuperSite for Windows. I won't be reviewing this build because there aren't any major functional changes.