The release of Windows 2000 got a little closer on Wednesday when Microsoft issued the "release candidate" for Beta 3. The Windows 2000 Beta 3 Release Candidate is a possible Beta 3 build, depending on the feedback of Rapid Deployment Partners (RDP), OEM partners, and the thousands of technical beta testers that should have the build within two days. CDs of the Release Candidate will be shipped out next week, the company confirmed.

"\[Beta 3 contains\] fit-and-finish work, aimed at setup and ease of use," said Jonathan Perera, the lead product manager for Windows 2000 Server. "The purpose of \[release candidate\] is to get detailed technical feedback. Across the board, I would expect a user to have a much easier time with setup of the OS."

Included in Windows 2000 Beta 3 are a Wizard for setting up Active Directory, dozens of new drivers for multimedia devices, and an integrated version of Terminal Server--now dubbed Terminal Services--that actually works.

"We just want to demonstrate to customers that we're on track for a first quarter 1999 release of Beta 3," said Perera, noting that there will probably be at least a couple of release candidates before the official Beta 3, which is due in January.

Beta 3 also marks the departure of Moshe Dunie from the Windows team. Brian Valentine will take his place. Moshe lead the development of Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, and, until this week, Windows 2000. Moshe says he has decided to spend some time with his family after years of non-stop work and dedication to Windows, though he will return at an unspecified date to work with Paul Maritz on some of the challenges facing Windows in the future.

The Windows 2000 Beta 3 release candidate is build 1946.1. Expect a review on the Windows 2000 Supersite this weekend