As reported exclusively yesterday in WinInfo, Microsoft has released the first preview build of Whistler, the next version of Windows 2000, to beta testers. Whistler build 2250 includes a simple new "skinning" feature called "Visual Styles" that allows you to apply a "personal" or "professional" look and feel to the user interface. But the interface changes are relatively mild compared to what Microsoft has in store further down the road: There are color changes here and there and a much simpler Control Panel applet than was previously available.

"Windows Whistler is the next version of Windows built on the Windows NT platform, targeted as the best version of Windows for both home and business computing environments," the preview release notes read. "Whistler Professional will contain further product enhancements over Windows 2000. Additionally, Whistler will also be our primary Consumer based version of Windows with the introduction of Whistler Personal, tailored to replace the Windows 9x based version of Windows for the home. Microsoft is committed to delivering a single code based version of Windows based on the NT platform beginning with Windows Whistler for all Windows customers."

The Whistler preview ships in Personal and Professional editions only, though Microsoft is also making the Whistler Platform SDK, "checked" builds, and a driver development kit (DDK) available to testers