It is my firm belief that Microsoft's Developer Division is the best at at shipping software. They were the first team to distribute interim releases outside the normal beta cycle (the original CTPs), and were also the first to leverage virtualization for their CTP drops.
But the change that I think sets the standard for Microsoft releases to come is the way they've cut features for release. You might think that's weird, but bear with me a second.
You see, "Atlas" had a ton of functionality in it. It was a constantly moving platform, but the ASP.NET team had prototyped a bunch of cool things that made the platform really interesting. Well, in moving to a release product, Microsoft cut some of those features from the officially-supported first release. But instead of ripping them out of the V1 release alltogether, they moved it into another "value-added" CTP release and shipped them anyways.
According to Scott Guthrie:
This redist contains the additional higher-level features that were in previous CTPs of “Atlas,” but which won’t be in the fully-supported 1.0 “core” redist. These features will continue to be community supported as we refine them further and incorporate more feedback. Over time we’ll continue to move features into the “core” download as we finalize features in this value-add package more.
That is a hell of a release strategy. You get all the benefits of the fully-refined core, without sacrificing features that were already in earlier "alpha" releases. Kudos to Scott and the rest of the Developer Division, who have proven once again that they are the gold standard of shipping software at Microsoft.