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Microsoft has released an interim build of Whistler to testers, having knocked back the actual release of beta 1 of the software two weeks, to 25th October. According to Paul Thurrott of WinInfo, who's hand a chance to look at a copy of the build (2267), there are a few small improvements over the previous build, but no major new features. Two things do however seem particularly worth noting - there's a new policy whereby testers have to download or install code live using Passport validation, and according to Thurrott the new Whistler UI is a severe hardware hit.

With beta 1 going out shortly to a wider audience, the extra control over distribution of 2267 really doesn't have a great deal of significance. Microsoft has suffered from a couple of escaped builds in the recent past, but it's future test code, nott Whistler, that it'll be most concerned to control.

There is however another aspect to consider. Whistler is going to be the first .NET OS, says Microsoft, and with .NET the company is beginning the move away from shrinkwrap and toward a Web-based service model (Steve Ballmer told us so it must be true). It's obviously not going to be possible to sell a whole operating system over the Web and get users to install it via Windows Update by the time Whistler ships next year, but it seems pretty clear that the Whistler testers are going to end up testing the distribution, validation and authentication services that will be used when .NET gets more mature.

And the performance hit? The new skinnable UI is obviously still under development, so in theory it could get faster during the beta process, but in practice Microsoft's new features have a tendency to get zipped up by having more hardware thrown at them, rather than via code optimisation. Thurrott says he's been told Microsoft is going to be more upfront than previously about the hardware requirements for Whistler, and says he wouldn't be surprised if these included 128 megabytes RAM minimum.

But we foresee a slight problemette here. The current version of the Wintel PC2001 roadmap specifies 128 for Win2k machines, otherwise 64. But if Whistler is shipping as the successor both to Win2k and to WinME, well, is the answer 64 or 128? And shouldn't Microsoft tell the OEMs so they can plan their RAM purchases? WinInfo has quite a bit more to say about 2267, and you can read that here. ®

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