Microsoft has released a set of six free tools for corporate users focused on assessment, planning, testing and deployment of Windows Vista.

The tools also include the latest release of Virtual PC 2007, Microsoft's virtualisation software for the desktop that includes special use rights for customers on Software Assurance maintenance programmes.

Delivery of the tools is part of an ongoing Microsoft strategy that began last year to provide migration tools as early as possible after the release of Vista, which shipped to corporate customers in November.

Migration tools released with beta versions of Vista in February 2006 were the earliest in an operating system development cycle that Microsoft made deployment tools available to corporate customers.

The company said its research showed some customers were spending up to $1,000 (£512) per desktop to migrate. Microsoft said its goal was to drop that cost below $100.

The six tools are: the Solution Accelerator for Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) 2007; Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5.0; Windows Vista Hardware Assessment 1.0; Microsoft Volume Activation 2.0 Tools; Key Management Service (KMS) for Windows Server 2003; and Virtual PC 2007.

BDD 2007 includes guides and tools to deploy on desktops Vista and the Office 2007 family of software. It includes single image engineering and deployment capabilities, user state migration tools, remote deployment tools, and integration with other deployment products, such as System Management Server 2003. It also can be used to integrate some of the other deployment tools.

ACT 5.0 includes a set of tools to determine if current IT applications are compatible with Vista. The tools also help in solving compatibility issues and tracking compatibility information after the application is deployed.
Windows Vista Hardware Assessment 1.0 helps companies discover which PCs they already own are best suited for Vista upgrades. The tool has an inventory feature that works over the network and generates reports on each PC.

Microsoft Volume Activation 2.0 Tools and KMS for Windows Server 2003 are part of Microsoft's Software Protection Platform aimed at curbing piracy. The Windows Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) helps IT professionals automate and centrally manage volume activation using a Multiple Activation Key (MAK). The VAMT tool can be used to activate an entire group of computers all at once. The KMS tools let companies set up internal servers to activate and validate copies of Vista.

Virtual PC 2007 gives corporate users with Software Assurance and Vista Enterprise Edition the right to run four additional copies of Windows operating systems on virtual machines.