Microsoft has made available a beta version of its forthcoming Vista operating system to the wider public for the first time.
The company’s Customer Preview Program is a testing period aimed at developers, IT workers and Windows enthusiasts, although anyone can download the beta.
Microsoft said it had “kicked off the Windows Vista Customer Preview Program (CPP), providing the broadest access yet to pre-release test versions of Windows Vista”.
The company released Beta 2 of Vista to a limited group of testers last month, and a more widely distributed beta was expected.
Corporate volume licence customers will be able to get their hands on the first commercial version of Vista from this November, with a wider distribution expected to be available from next January.
Potential users of the beta can see if their machine will support Vista by using a recently released Vista testing tool.
It is expected that many users will install the software on a spare machine for testing purposes, as Microsoft acknowledges the OS is still full of bugs.
The company may well limit distribution of the latest beta after a certain number of downloads are reached.