Microsoft announces Beta 2 of Vista, Office 2007 and Server

Seattle (WA) - Speaking at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced the availability of the Beta 2 versions of Windows Vista, Office 2007 (formerly code-named Office 12) and Windows Server, code-named "Longhorn."

According to Gates, each software package is available to MSDN subscribers and participants of the firm's Beta program today. It is the first time that Microsoft has released software pre-releases of a new client OS, its productivity suite and the server component at the same day.

However, the growing level of interaction between those applications justifies the increased effort for a simultaneous rollout. Gates mentioned during his keynote speech that Microsoft's focus in all three programs is to simplify collaborative tools, enhance security features, expand communication capabilities and integrate a "very rich" search capability.

Context-sensitive search that expands beyond the desktop and the Internet deep into the operating system, a network and other applications is most likely Microsoft's most critical weapon to attack Google's growing dominance in the search market. By allowing users to find documents and information on a variety throughout the reach of Windows Vista, Microsoft can take search to a level Google cannot follow at this time.

Gates also said that all three Betas 2 will provide security "on a whole new level" and shared digital rights management policies.

According to industry sources, Windows Vista was originally scheduled to launch in the first week of October, but was rescheduled for an early 2007 launch back in March. The release of Office 2007 will coincide with Vista, while Longhorn is expected to follow several months later.