Microsoft: No Sidebar Until Vista Beta 2

Testers and developers looking forward to playing with Vista's most prominent new feature over the holidays will have to wait a bit longer. Microsoft officials confirmed to BetaNews late Monday that the Windows Sidebar won't be delivered in a public build until Beta 2.

Microsoft on Monday released the December CTP of Windows Vista, which includes a number of changes mostly centered on the areas of performance, security and mobility. Build 5270 also includes the new Windows Defender anti-spyware application, and a feature called BitLocker, which encrypts a full hard drive.

But notably missing from the release is the Windows Sidebar, which testers have been anticipating since September's PDC 2005 conference where the feature was introduced.

"We're making great progress, and we plan to provide Windows Sidebar to developers in the Beta 2 timeframe," a Microsoft spokesperson told BetaNews.

In September, Microsoft also launched a special Web site for Gadgets, the mini-applications that reside within the Sidebar. These Gadgets can perform a variety of functions such as reporting new e-mail, listing stock prices and providing weather forecasts.

Most of the applications built for the sidebar will use elements of the operating system in order to function, which Microsoft told BetaNews makes the technology different from similar features offered by Apple through its Dashboard and Yahoo with its Widget Engine.

Microsoft's Gadgets can be developed using a variety of programming methods including C#, ZAML and more. Directing people to learn more and begin developing Gadgets, Windows lead product manager Greg Sullivan remarked at the PDC, "I think the sky's the limit."

Since that time, however, Microsoft has repositioned its Gadget Web site to work with Live.com. Live.com is the new customizable homepage introduced as part of Redmond's new Windows Live lineup of Web based services. Live.com Gadgets utilize JavaScript and XML, and will be compatible with the Windows Sidebar as well.

Still, Microsoft reiterated that it hopes to have finished most of Windows Vista's features by the end of December. A feature-complete build will likely be delivered in February. That means developers and beta testers won't be able to provide feedback on the Sidebar until its ostensibly set in stone.

"Good product design doesn't happen overnight, and Microsoft partners need as much time testing as possible to prepare Windows Vista based products," remarked Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox. "Apple started designing the iPod nano a year before its release. How can, say, HP or Sony create that hot, '06 Windows Vista PC in second or third quarter and get it out in time for the holidays?"

But Microsoft is hoping an earlier-than-usual feature-complete Windows Vista build will be enough.

"Yes, we are still targeting to have most Windows Vista features complete by end of December and integrated into the product by January," a spokesperson said. "Doing so will allow customers and partners to have a feature-complete version of Windows Vista to test sooner in the overall development process than any previous Windows releases."

Says Sean Alexander on the Microsoft Gadgets site: "You'll be hearing more about Windows Sidebar over the coming months here as we approach release around Beta 2 of Windows Vista."

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