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RealTime IT News

More Bits For Vista Enthusiasts

Microsoft did a fan dance of sorts today, giving the public a glimpse at the upcoming Vista operating system.

While offering downloads of the first public beta of Vista, the software giant warned it is not for the faint of heart.

The download, part of the Windows Vista Customer Preview Program, "should not be used in a production environment or on a main machine in the home," advised Microsoft at its Web site.

Rather, the public beta is aimed at developers and experts wishing to test the operating system.

Microsoft also informed consumers once they install the beta they cannot roll back to a previous operating system, but must either wait until the final version of Vista is released or reinstall a previous version of Windows.

Consumers have two options for obtaining the beta version of Vista. Downloading the 3.5GB 32-bit version requires a DSL or cable Internet connection, a DVD burner and a chunk of time.

Depending on how fast your high-speed connection is, the process could take between 4.5 and 64 hours, according to Microsoft.

Those interested can also order the DVDs for $6 (plus $4 for shipping and handling) per disc.

While this is the first public beta release, in May, the software maker released a test version of Vista to those attending the WinHec conference in Seattle.

Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and co-founder, told the audience "we see the PC changing." Among those changes: bigger screens, greater concentration on VoIP and the maturation of desktop computers.

As a sign of the new direction PCs are taking, the new beta of Vista includes a 64-bit version. Previously limited to servers, Gates predicted within the next three years all new desktop computers will be 64-bit, internetnews.com previously reported.

The beta expires June 1, 2007. Microsoft has said the final version of Windows Vista may be ready early next year.