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Microsoft opens window for new Vista test

The software giant releases another preview of Vista and tries to alter the perception that the operating system is for consumers only.

Microsoft said on Wednesday it is releasing an updated test version of Windows Vista, the forthcoming update to Microsoft's flagship operating system.

The latest Community Technology Preview (CTP) version is aimed at businesses, Microsoft said. The company is trying to rebut the notion that Vista is primarily a consumer release, a perception that was fueled by Bill Gates' Vista demonstration at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"Windows Vista is as much, if not more, a business release," said Brad Goldberg, general manager of Windows Client product management, in a conference call with journalists.

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Video: New Vista features on CTP
CNET Senior Editor Robert Vamosi shows off new features.

Goldberg said Vista will bring fewer reboots and easier manageability, which should help businesses reduce the cost of handling their stable of PCs.

Microsoft stuck to its existing timetable for Vista, promising a consumer-oriented test version will come out next quarter and a final release will arrive in the second half of the year.

"The exact date will be determined by quality," Goldberg said.

Microsoft released its last CTP version in December, following previous CTP releases in September and October. Microsoft had planned monthly CTP versions but scrapped that plan in November.

Windows chief Jim Allchin said last month that Microsoft would be releasing two more major CTP versions, but there would not be just one "beta 2" release, as has been the case with past Windows releases. Microsoft declined to discuss which different editions of Vista that Microsoft will make available. The company had briefly posted to its Web site information that suggested six distinct versions of Vista, with two of those also coming in "N" versions with the media player removed as required by the European Union.

"I know there has been a lot of speculation," a Microsoft representative said at the start of the conference call. "We will be making some information available very very soon."