End-of-year Vista release: business versions only

Microsoft will release Windows Vista to volume-licence customers before the end of the year but only the business-specific versions Microsoft Australia’s Windows Chief said yesterday.

Previously the software giant had said it would hold back the retail launch of Vista until next year but hadn’t commented widely on which versions would be released to businesses early.

“The only versions that will be initially released to businesses will be business versions” said Jeff Putt Business Lead for Windows at Microsoft Australia at the Influence IT conference in Sydney yesterday.

Business versions lack many of the attractive home user features like Windows Media Center which would make them less attractive to pirates.

However Microsoft is using a single-install-image distribution method for Vista. The capabilities that will be available to the user will depend on the serial number used to unlock the software.

If hackers can determine the final scheme for encoding Home serial numbers before the release of Home versions of Vista the early-release business versions of Vista may be able to be “unlocked” to become Home Premium versions.

The delay for consumer release of Vista is solely due to the time it would take to duplicate media and get stock into retailers Putt said.

“We can release it to volume licence customers in November because they don’t need install media… they will happily download 2.5GB of install image” he said.

But Putt admitted he was nonetheless concerned about piracy of the business versions of Vista prior to the official consumer release.

Putt said that the anti-piracy controls on the volume licence and business versions of Vista were significantly stronger than previous versions of Windows. Pirated versions of XP found on P2P networks are almost always volume-licence versions that do not require activation.