I have been getting a few questions regarding the release of Internet Explorer 7, Windows Vista and Office "12". I am trying to summarize the information available today for your reference. Please note that this information on pre-release products is subject to change without notice.

 Internet Explorer 7

The next browser from Microsoft, to be available as a download for Windows XP SP2 and included in Windows Vista.
Best link for general information: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/IE/ie7
Rough timeline: Announced in February/2005. Beta 1 released on July/2005. Final release expected in H2CY06, before Windows Vista.
Pre-release version available publicly today? Yes, download from MSDN.
What can I do to evaluate now? Read the IE7 Beta 1 Technology Overview (link above). Download and install the beta 1 from MSDN.
Next steps: Beta 2 should be available in the Spring.

Windows Vista

The next client Operating System from Microsoft, the successor to Windows XP SP2, previously known by the codename Windows “Longhorn”.
Best link for general information: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista
Rough timeline: Developer preview released on September/2003. Beta 1 released on August/2005. Technology Preview released on December/2005. Final release expected in H2CY06.
Pre-release version available today for download? Yes, download from MSDN.
What can I do to evaluate now? Read the extensive documentation available in the link above. Download and install the December 2005 Technology Preview from MSDN.
Next steps: Another CTP should be released soon. Beta 2 should be available in the Spring.

Office “12”

The next Productivity Application Suite from Microsoft, the successor to Office 2003 SP2.
Best link for general information: http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview
Rough timeline: Beta 1 released on November/2005. Final release expected in H2CY06.
Pre-release version available today? No. The beta 1 release was very restricted.
What can I do to evaluate now? Sign up to be notified of the Beta 2 release (link above).
Next steps: Beta 2 should be available in the Spring.

Exchange Server “12”

The next Messaging and Collaboration Server from Microsoft, the successor to Exchange Server 2003 SP2.
Best link for general information: http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/preview
Rough timeline: Beta 1 released on December/2005. Final release expected in late 2006 or early 2007.
Pre-release version available today? No. The beta 1 release was very restricted.
What can I do to evaluate now? Wait for Beta 2. Follow the Exchange blog at http://blogs.technet.com/exchange
Next steps: Beta 2 should be available later this year.

Technology Adoption Program

Most of the restricted beta releases are being done via the Technology Adoption Program (TAP), which is a special early adoption program for companies that can commit to perform testing and provide feedback to improve the products. That requires a special TAP Agreement with Microsoft. You can find a good reference about the TAP at:
http://www.microsoft.com/business/insights/content/article.aspx?contentId=1069

For individuals and corporations that did not make it into the TAP program, an MSDN subscription is a great way to get early access to Microsoft Software for development and testing, including the latest pre-release software. You can find more about MSDN subscriptions at:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/subscriptions/