Last week Microsoft opened up the Beta for App-V 4.6 Service Pack 2. You can apply at http://connect.microsoft.com for permission to join the Beta. They ask a lot of detailed questions about your environment, but it seems to be an automatic approval into the program. You find the beta under the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, although it supports both Windows Desktop and Remote Desktop Services.
So just what is this beta? Great question. All we have for information right now is a blog post by Karri announcing availability (Windows Team Blog ). So based on past practices of Microsoft, here is what I think. I cracked it open over the weekend for a look as well.
The Beta consists of only the sequencer and client, no server components. This looks and smells like just a tool to support lab tests of the Windows 8 Beta and Consumer Preview. Microsoft did a similar thing for App-V when the Windows 7 Beta appeared. Of course the odd thing is, unlike with Windows 7, I didn’t really need a new App-V version to work with Win8. I have been happily sequencing and testing virtualized apps on Windows 8 Developer Preview, Consumer Preview, and Server Beta using 4.6 Sp1 with Hotfix 3 or above without any issues.
The only noticeable change to these components, is the addition of the three new OS names to the OSD files. These new tags ( Win8, Win864, and Win8TS64) have now been documented in my updated OSD_Illustrated online reference , and in my OSD Reference e-Book . But since most of us routinely use the “allow to run on any OS option”, these are not really necessary.
I assume that the 4.6 SP2 Beta includes a rollup of the current hotfixes. There have been 5 hotfixes since the last release; and the first three are important to everyone. Microsoft would normally include all existing hotfixes, but it is possible that Hotfix 5 could be missing because it hasn’t been out very long. But we don’t know because release documentation is traditionally a weak link with App-V. (On a side note, I had a great side conversation with a leader in the support team while at the MVP summit last month on this topic. Possibly we will see better documentation in the future as someone on that team now understands how little we really get, and how useless most of it is).
Applications sequenced with the SP2 beta have OSDs that are marked with a minimum client version of 188.8.131.52. This implies that packages sequenced using SP2 should work with clients that have Sp1, or even 4.6 without a service pack.
But as I usually find, there are other differences in SP2 Beta. Nothing that affects the UI – the sequencer still has the same “improved” wizard (Microsoft’s term, not mine). I only did a few apps, but managed to run into one that exposed an issue not present in SP1. Hey, it is listed as a Beta and we shouldn’t be using it in production — I get that. I’m not complaining, just pointing out that it is different.
But different opens another door. An unsupported, “don’t go there” door as far as Microsoft is concerned, but to me a door is a door if it gets me where I need to go. If you have an app that won’t work under SP1, you might just try sequencing it with SP2. Who knows; it might just work due to some other undocumented change. And since you can test that app and deploy using supported clients, what would be the harm?
Will there be other surprises in this service pack? Time will tell. Microsoft isn’t publicly speaking about what is next with App-V yet.