I attended a Microsoft sponsored partners event last week in Denver.
As you may imagine, Vista was the primary focus. I will be talking a lot about Vista over the next year - both the good and especially the ugly. Some things that stand out to me right now:
Bitlocker (that neat function that locks down - say - a laptops hard drive so if it's stolen no-one can extract your data) will ONLY be offered on the "Ultimate" and "Enterprise" Vista editions. Which pisses me off big time, since very few small businesses (my main market) are going to spring for the Enterprise pricing plans, and they don't want to run Ultimate on mid-range laptops. Why can't they offer it on a small business SKU?
They have all sorts of neat Domain Policy add-ons for Vista only, but the actual templates so that Windows Server 2003 can manage them are not yet available . . . classic mismatch in cross team scheduling.
In my opinion -- THE biggest attraction for business customers for Vista is not Vista itself. It's the imaging technology that's being used to deliver Vista combined with a newly announced toolkit called Business Desktop Deployment. The BDD toolkit is free and it's job is to manage Vista deployment planning and rollout across any organization. It can directly edit Vista install images. You can even add all the approved office applications, drivers, etc for your company to your install images. This is big.
In the old days, we had to install Windows on a sample machine, install drivers, run a special system "sysprep" procedure so that it would ask for registration info at first boot, create an image of the hard drive, then copy that image out. Any changes required more jury rigging involving re-installing the image, updating it as a live running instance, running sysprep again, and snapping a new image. All using a complex combination of native and third party tools and no small amount of special sauce.
Now we can update a base install file directly. We can add drivers. Add common applications like Office 2007, even third party apps. Once that's done the image is saved and can be directly deployed onto a new machine over the network as a fresh install, or burned to a DVD and installed.