'No need to test' Vista beta one

Companies running Windows 2000 should start thinking about testing the operating system formerly known as Longhorn from the first beta release, but everyone else can afford to wait, according to Gartner

Companies should check out the new functionality in the first beta of Windows Vista — but most can leave serious testing until the second beta, according to analyst group Gartner.

Last week Microsoft revealed that the next version of Windows, formerly known as Longhorn, will be called Windows Vista, with the first beta expected shortly.

Gartner said first betas do not usually include many new user interface elements and instead concentrate on building the foundation of the new operating system — and Windows Vista beta 1 is likely to keep to that pattern.

The analyst firm said the initial beta is likely to include long-awaited search and metadata tagging functions but will focus on the new application programming interface (API) set, known as WinFX, and other kernel-level changes.

In a research note written by Gartner vice-president Michael A Silver, the analyst house predicted: "The operating system is likely to change significantly between beta 1, beta 2 (expected early in 2006) and the commercial release, expected late in 2006."

It said Windows users shouldn't judge the performance or hardware compatibility of Windows Vista from the first beta. Instead, companies should use the beta to build an understanding of Vista's search capability, its new imaging and deployment features, and the protected user access.

Companies that have already adopted Windows XP should take a look at the new APIs and try out the new features but, said Gartner, there's no point in thoroughly testing them or checking for systems compatibility.

"You may wait at least until beta 2, if not longer, before beginning testing in earnest," it said.

But companies running Windows 2000 that plan to skip Windows XP need to act sooner.

"After Windows Vista ships, you will have much less time than those running Windows XP to test and deploy the new operating system before independent software vendor support starts waning around 2007 and Microsoft ends all bug-fix support in mid 2010," Gartner said.

These companies should begin talking to the developers of your critical applications and plan on some limited, internal compatibility testing with beta 1, Gartner said.