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Microsoft is using its latest Windows Visa beta code release to highlight the operating system's money and labor saving features for business users and IT departments.

Announcing the fresh Windows Vista Community Technology Preview (CTP), Microsoft talked-up improved user controls and settings along with mobility controls designed to simplify administration, speed performance and enhance the security of Windows. Brad Goldberg, Microsoft's general manager for Windows client product management, said during a conference with journalists on Wednesday: "The impression was created that Windows Vista was a consumer release. Windows Vista is as much, if not more, a business release."

That impression was, of course, created by Microsoft who has made a point of outlining the operating system's applicability to consumers. Indeed, it was chief software architect Bill Gates who went so far as to pitch Windows Vista as a home entertainment platform at January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Gates told CES Windows Vista would help usher in a "big year [in] digital lifestyle."

The latest Windows Vista CTP has been branded an "enterprise" release by Microsoft, with the company promising a "broader, end-user preview" during the next quarter. However, and here's where Microsoft's marketing kicks in, the enterprise CTP contains all the features that will target consumers.

That means features like Gadgets, which are web applications similar to Widgets devised by Apple Computer for use in OS X that run outside of the browser over the desktop. Only Microsoft believes developers can write Gadgets that fulfill a business purpose, like monitoring server performance.

On the more serious side, Microsoft is taking steps to reduce the burden and costs associated with running Windows. Imaging, where IT departments make multiple versions of Windows configurations for use on different hardware configurations or in various languages used inside an organization, has been improved to provide both hardware and language neutrality, Goldberg said.

As previously reported, Windows Vista users will be able to change their PC configuration, like installing a PC driver or connecting to a wireless network, without requiring administrator privileges. Users will have the option of using pre-configured settings to access services or install devices, while Windows Vista dumps the need to connect to services over a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Microsoft declined to detail how Windows Vista would maintain network security without using a VPN.

Microsoft is getting its act together on the ability to run existing applications with the new operating system. Microsoft will have a beta version of its application compatibility toolkit available before Windows Vista ships, allowing customers to assess the impact Windows Vista will have on their existing applications.

Previous versions of Microsoft's Windows compatibility toolkits have lagged the operating system. The Windows XP Service Pack 2 toolkit, for example shipped nine months after the main release.®

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