As promised from my last posting, after many, many months of hard work - the Beta of Commerce Server 2006 is now done, out the door, and ready for the world - before the holidays. It is available publicly from http://www.microsoft.com/commerceserver/evaluation/2006/beta.mspx. Contained at that link are instructions to sign up for the Microsoft Connect system to actually download the software.
If you want some additional reading, the README is available at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=57013 and the Installation Guide is available at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=57268. These are being maintained on the Web for easy refresh and updating.
This is the first feature-complete release of Commerce Server 2006 made available. It runs on 32-bit Windows Server 2003 platforms and is based upon the RTM versions of Visual Studio .NET 2005 and SQL Server 2005 plus the Beta 2 version of BizTalk Server 2006 (for the BizTalk Adapters). All of the great core enhancements such as new Business User tools (no more BizDesk), Inventory system, and enhancements to Orders, Catalog, Profiles, Marketing, and Analytics are all present and accounted for in this build. Likewise, the new Commerce Server Staging feature to automate the deployment/replication of content, business data, and configuration is also there - this is the first drop with this feature. Of course, what I consider to be the two most leading-edge features - full Web Services/SOA support and BizTalk Server 2006 adapters are also there as well.
The first drop of the new Starter Site is coming soon - it trails the core product by a few weeks (since you obviously need complete, stable builds on top of which the site gets constructed). I will post details about this when it is available.
In the meantime, I suggest you sign up and download the Beta today. Be VERY VOCAL about using the Submit Feedback mechanism to report any bugs or comments. This is a new feature with this Beta whereupon the data collected goes straight into our bug tracking database. When submitting feedback, please be as explicit as possible - the more details we have the easier we can address your feedback.
In closing, I'd like to wish everyone in the Commerce Server community best wishes for a wonderful 2005 holiday season. Stay tuned for future posts highlighting and discussing the various new features now that this release is out the door and I actually might get some of my life back again. [:)]