Microsoft has released an updated preview build of its Windows Home Server "Vail" product to selected testers.
It's not clear to me whether this is the near-final Release Candidate of Vail which Microsoft execs recently said to be expecting. (I don't think it is.) But I've asked Microsoft for comment and will update with any information I receive back. Microsoft is sticking with "preview" as the descriptor for this build, a spokesperson said (which still doesn't clarify whether this is the Vail Release Candidate 0 that it seems to be).
According to Microsoft enthusiast and blogger Tom Ziegmann, the August Vail test build includes a number of tweaks to the dashboard. It also will add a new client connector for Mac OS, as well as support fo Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 betas, according to Ziegmann. Ziegmann warned testers that some things are broken in the new test release, such as storage check and repair.
Another Vail tester confirmed that Microsoft quietly made the new "preview refresh" available on August 13 on its Connect site.
Microsoft released a beta of Vail in late April 2010. Microsoft officials have continued to decline to say when to expect the final version of Vail to ship, but many of the testers and company watchers I know are expecting it to be released this calendar year.
Vail is one of three new low-end servers Microsoft is developing. "SBS 7" is the next version of Microsoft's on-premises Small Business Server product. "Aurora" is a hybrid cloud/on-premises server aimed at small business users. Test builds of SBS 7 and Aurora are expected before the end of August.
Update: The Aurora beta is available for download today, August 16.
Microsoft officials also are not commenting on when the final version of SBS 7 or Aurora will launch.
Microsoft officials have said to expect Vail to include improvements in four areas, including the extension of media streaming “outside the home or office”; new functionality around multi-PC backup and restore; simplified setup and user experience; and expanded tools and customization capabilities for partners.
Update: The "We Got Served" blog has more about the Mac connectivity added to this build:
"The big news is that Windows Home Server Vail will natively support computers running Mac OS. This includes the use of Windows Home Server as a target for Time Machine backups, as well as a Mac Launchpad and the same remote web access experience as provided for the PC. At this point (in the preview), there does not appear to be access to the Windows Home Server Dashboard."
We Got Served also has added a Vail installation walkthrough for those who are downloading and installing the new August preview.