On Monday morning at 8:00 am PST, Microsoft will issue the October 2005 Windows Vista Community Technical Preview (CTP), or build 5231, to beta testers, and MSDN and TechNet subscribers. As an interim build between the Beta 1 and Beta 2 milestones, Vista build 5231 does not include the fit and finish of a true beta, but it does introduce several major new features, including Windows Media Player (WMP 11), Mobility Center, and Network Center, as well as a significant upgrade to Internet Explorer (IE) 7.
The CTP program is designed to "facilitate early and consistent feedback on prerelease versions of Windows Vista," according to a Microsoft representative. "With the October CTP, Microsoft continues to provide a way for the technical community to have greater visibility and experience with Windows Vista as we move toward broad availability. This month, the Windows Vista October CTP offers an early look at some of the significant advances in infrastructure management, mobility capabilities, and provides a glimpse at new end-user experiences that will be part of the final, shipping version."
As my exhaustive review on the SuperSite for Windows (see URL below) demonstrates, these claims are accurate. Windows Vista build 5231 includes a variety of new features. WMP 11 includes a new graphical media library that utilizes album art rather than the database-like lines of text that characterize other media players. The new version of Media feature features swooping, animated graphics, and uses Vista graphical features to overlay video and photo slideshows behind the user interface. A new Mobility Center provides a front-end to the many tools notebook and Tablet PC users will need. And a drastically rearchitected volume control finally lets you discretely control the sound output of any application or service; with this capability you could mute everything but WMP 11, for example.
Build 5231 also features a look at Microsoft's new networking capabilities, which includes a rewritten network stack and replacements for all of the end user networking interfaces. A new Network Center provides an all-in-one configuration panel for the system's various networking features, while a new Computers and Devices construct provides access to all of the PCs and other devices that are networked to your PC. Internet Explorer has been extensively overhauled with new features, including ActiveX Opt-In, Protected Mode, parental controls, Favorites Center with Web feeds, Quick Tabs, Tab Groups, and multi-page print previews.
Overall, the changes made to Windows Vista in this build are impressive, though the build's reliability is suspect, as one might expect of a non-milestone interim build. For many more details, please visit my review on the SuperSite for Windows.