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Windows Server 2008 Nears Final Code, Vista SP Test Widens

Microsoft announced that the server OS update's first release candidate will be available for download Tuesday.

After more than two years in beta testing, Microsoft Windows Server 2008 is rounding the final bends toward its actual release. On Tuesday, Microsoft will make the first release candidate of Windows Server 2008, RC0, available for download.

Microsoft already has done 1,000 external deployments of Windows Server 2008's last beta test, Beta 3, so this new milestone indicates that Windows Server is getting ever closer to ready. "We have a build that is really, really close to being done," Alex Hinrichs, a Microsoft program manager for Windows Server's development team, said in a new video interview posted on Microsoft's Channel 9 Web site.

The server operating system is still due out in the first quarter of next year, with a formal launch -- though not necessarily release -- at the end of February. With Windows Server 2008 RC0, Microsoft's also releasing test versions of a few technologies to the public for the first time, including Microsoft's heavily anticipated Viridian virtualization technology, the ability to set Server 2008 up as a dedicated media server via the operating system's stripped-down Server Core mode, and a "media pack" to help Microsoft Web servers better stream media.

Virtualization was expected to be a significant part of Windows Server 2008, but Viridian has been delayed so that it won't come out until after the release of the operating system itself. However, the fact that it's now going to be included in a test of Windows Server is a good sign that Viridian development is back on track.

Windows Server isn't the only operating system getting a makeover at Microsoft. The company announced Monday that it had expanded the test of Windows Vista Service Pack 1, which includes mostly performance and security upgrades, to a wider audience of about 12,000 testers from the few who had been working with the operating system update before. Microsoft says it hopes to release five reliability updates as part of SP1, but also will offer them as downloads at Windows Update.

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