Windows Vista Public Release on Tap ... But When?

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In the News

- Windows Vista Public Release on Tap ... But When?
- Apple Loses Free Speech Case

by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@windowsitpro.com

Windows Vista Public Release on Tap ... But When?

Around the world, millions of eager Windows users waited for the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), held last week in Seattle. Microsoft used WinHEC as the platform for the release of Windows Vista Beta 2, which will eventually be shipped to the public as part of a Customer Preview Program (CPP). A week after Microsoft announced the release of Vista Beta 2, users are still wondering when they can get their hands on it.

The answer is vague. Microsoft will promise to deliver Windows Vista Beta 2 only "in the coming weeks," and the company has yet to announce how it plans to distribute the release to users. I've been told privately that Microsoft plans to distribute Vista Beta 2 to more than 2 million people around the world, although it's unclear whether Microsoft will let users download the release or offer it via DVD.

Whenever and however Vista Beta 2 is distributed, eager users might be in for some nasty surprises. Despite huge reliability gains in pre-Beta 2 builds, Beta 2 has proven to be less than satisfactory on my test systems in the past week, with numerous hang-ups, crashes, and even blue screens. It's unclear what happened, but Microsoft would be smart to quickly issue a more stable post-Beta 2 build to users. If Vista Beta 2 is released to millions of people worldwide in the shape it's in, the outcry will be deafening. Vista Beta 2 isn't an OS that can be used as a day-to-day replacement for Windows XP.

That said, Vista Beta 2 is greatly improved compared to last year's Beta 1 build and the Community Technology Preview (CTP) builds Microsoft issued at the end of 2005. In February 2005, prerelease versions of Vista were deemed "feature complete" and since then, Microsoft has been working on improving the quality, fit, and finish. Hardware and software compatibility have also seen steady improvement.

Apple Loses Free Speech Case

On Friday, The California Courts of Appeal issued a stinging defeat to Apple Computer when it overturned a 2005 lower court decision that would have forced bloggers to reveal their confidential sources. In December 2004, Apple sued two enthusiast Web sites for publishing information about minor Apple products only weeks before the products were publicly announced.

"Today's decision is a victory for the rights of journalists, whether online or offline, and for the public at large," said Kurt Opsahl, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is providing legal representation to the enthusiast Web sites. "The court has upheld the strong protections for the free flow of information to the press, and from the press to the public."

The appeals court also had some strong words for Apple. "We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news," the ruling reads. "Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment, which is to identify the best, most important, and most valuable ideas not by any sociological or economic formula, rule of law, or process of government, but through the rough and tumble competition of the memetic marketplace."

A trial court in California originally granted Apple's request to seek email records from the enthusiast Web sites in an effort to discover their sources. However, the appeals court overturned the ruling and decided that the Web sites were protected by California's reporter shield law and a constitutional privilege against disclosing confidential sources. Furthermore, Apple violated the federal Stored Communications Act when it attempted to subpoena email records from the Web sites' ISPs. "Under federal law, civil litigants can't subpoena your stored email from your service provider," EFF attorney Kevin Bankston said. "Today's decision is \[also\] a profound electronic privacy victory for everyone who uses email."

Apple refused to comment on the ruling. The company has a separate case pending against another enthusiast Web site.

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