Now that Windows Vista beta 1 is available, there is some useful information that has been made publicly available about new and improved OS features. One of the significant changes is a ground-up rewrite of OS setup and the technologies/tools that are used to deploy Windows. Most of the world won't care about this (and in fact, they hopefully won't even notice as long as setup does its job and installs correctly and quickly the first time). But for setup geeks like myself, there is some really interesting stuff to read and observe about these new OS setup technologies, even if you don't have a copy of Vista beta 1 (or don't have access to daily builds like I do).
To get started learning about new Vista deployment technologies, I suggest that you take a look at this site. It provides a high level overview of some of the improvements being made in Windows Vista to improve and simplify OS deployment.
Then, you can dig into a 147 page (!!!) user's guide that go into significantly more detail about Windows Vista deployment features. You can download this guide, named the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) by clicking on this link. I've been digging into some of these technologies and I'm planning to write about them in more detail in the near future.
One of the really cool things is that the underlying componentization of Windows that forms the basis for the new OS setup architecture originally came from ideas from my previous team - Windows Embedded. The Windows setup team looked at how Windows XP Embedded was broken into individual components that expressed dependencies on other components and how Target Designer and other embedded tools could create various sized bootable images of Windows XP, and sought to bring this kind of modular design and explicit dependency mapping ability to the desktop version of Windows. This is still a work in progress and there will be continued improvements in the remainder of the Vista development cycle and on into future versions of Windows.