As promised, Microsoft delivered its first feature-complete Windows Vista Community Technical Preview (CTP) this week, build 5308. The February 2006 CTP includes a number of Vista features aimed specifically at businesses. This is the first CTP to focus largely on business users, Microsoft said.

"Windows Vista is as much, if not more, a business release," said Brad Goldberg, general manager of Windows Client product management, during a conference call with journalists and enthusiast Web site operators. According to Goldberg, Vista will make networks more secure and simplify how businesses complete complicated tasks, such as logging onto Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Microsoft is also lowering permission levels so that some tasks, such as setting up printers, can be accomplished by non-administrators.

Other business-oriented tools in the February CTP include image-based deployment tools, which can create disk images that can edited on-disk without the need to recreate them from scratch; and a new Microsoft Management Console (MMC). Build 5308 is also the first to include a number of consumer-oriented features, such as the Windows Sidebar and Welcome Center.

Microsoft says it will ship its next CTP in April. That release, sometimes referred to as Beta 2 or RC0 (release candidate 0), will be made available to the public. Microsoft still expects to ship the final release of Vista in time for the 2006 Holiday season, which runs from October through December.