Well, this was a nice surprise. I knew that the Beta 2 version of Windows Vista would be based on build 5381, but we had been told that Microsoft wouldn't be shipping any more interim Vista builds after build 5365 (see my review). Then, late on Friday, May 5, 2006, Microsoft quietly shipped an early, pre-Beta 2 version of Windows Vista build 5381 to testers and others close to the software giant. That means we've able to preview what Beta 2 will look like before it officially ships on or before May 22.
If you've used build 5365, there won't be many surprises this time around. There are a handful of new wallpapers. The Vista version of Media Center has been updated to allow an Xbox 360 to function as a Media Center Extender. Windows Mail has been updated slightly with a new Vista-like look. That's about it. I've already gotten a number of emails from people wondering if I'm going to review this build. The answer is no. My next Windows Vista review will be for Beta 2, and that will occur when Microsoft gives the OK (I'm meeting twice with the company between now the official Beta 2 briefing to discuss what's new in Beta 2). My plan for the Beta 2 review is to focus on the overall feature set, as it now stands, and to examine software compatibility.
For now, build 5381 is a tantalizing look at how the final version of Windows Vista will look. Windows Vista has come a long way since the early CTP builds, and though I'm still disappointed that Microsoft won't meet many of its promises for this Windows version (see Part 5 of my Windows Vista February 2006 CTP/Build 5342 review for more information), it's clear that Vista will be a monumental upgrade and a major Windows version. It will certainly keep me busy for years to come.
Anyway, enjoy the screenshots. I'll have more Windows Vista content, and my Beta 2 review, available as soon as possible.