The beta machinery at Microsoft Corporation is cranking up this week as the company posts its first beta release of Windows.NET 1.0--code-named "Whistler"--for its technical beta testers, while two other long-overdue products, Windows Media Player 7 and Windows 2000 Service Pack 1, were finally completed. Whistler build 2250, which closely resembles Windows 2000 and Windows Millennium Edition ("Windows Me"), rather than offer a peek at any dramatic new features, is the first public release of Whistler, though it follows two leaked builds that made their way to the Net earlier this spring. Whistler is Microsoft's initial client and server platform for its Dot NET strategy, which it announced last month and though a future release of Windows.NET--code-named "Blackcomb"--will use the Dot NET "user experience," Microsoft says that Whistler will stick with the tried and true Explorer user interface and not offer a complete "activity center" experience as previously expected. However, Microsoft says that Internet Explorer (IE) will become even more integrated in Whistler.

Windows Media Player 7 (WMP7), which will become available publicly the week of July 24th, according to Microsoft, will be distributed via the Windows Update Web site. The "Release To Web"(RTW), or final, version of WMP7 (build 1954) is a bit more refined and usable than the beta version that's been floating around the Web for the past month, so I'll be posting a review of it on the Windows SuperSite soon. WMP7, which will ship in the form of a 9MB download, is the first fully integrated digital media center from the company, offering playback for a variety of audio and video formats, Internet streaming capabilities, a jukebox feature, Internet radio, and more.

Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 (SP1) was also completed recently, and like WMP7, it will be distributed via the Windows Update Web site when it becomes publicly available next week. The Windows 2000 SP1 release is approximately 63 MB, though a CD-based version is available as well that includes numerous add-ons and tools. Microsoft says it has focused on operating system reliability, application compatibility, setup, and security with SP1 and the company doesn't consider it a required upgrade for Windows 2000 users. For more information about Windows 2000 SP1, please see my review on the Windows SuperSite