Service Pack 2 for Vista and WS2K8 released to manufacturing

In what's turning out to be a busy week for Microsoft, the company announced last night that the code has been finalized for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 -- a unified code base that upgrades both operating systems. This after the only release candidate for SP2 was released for final testing on March 4.

In a Betanews check Wednesday morning, SP2 was not yet being distributed to MSDN and TechNet subscribers, although we can probably expect to see it turn up there in the next few days.

Windows Media Center users are especially looking forward to SP2 since it will contain the update that enables Media Center to write content to Blu-ray Discs. Prior to SP2, even users with BD-R recorders could only write to DVD.

But one big feature Microsoft is finally adding for all Vista users -- something that Windows XP users have actually had since SP2 in late 2004, but that wasn't officially available for Vista -- is a Wi-Fi configuration feature called Windows Connect Now (WCN). For years, Microsoft has invited manufacturers of routers and other networking equipment to participate in a program it ironically dubbed "Windows Rally," whose aim was to enable Windows to automatically configure new network devices once they first become visible. Although the feature works fairly well in XP SP2, only certain Vista users were exposed to it -- for example, in a Vista Feature Pack exclusively for Dell computers.

A fully developed Vista version of WCN was created in 2007 with the intention of distributing it with SP1. Users who added a Wi-Fi router to their networks would find a special PIN number located on a sticker (Belkin routers currently feature this sticker on the underside of their foot plates). Entering this PIN into a Vista-based wizard starts the process of generating a network profile for any other devices or computers that may be added to the network later. That profile may then be stored on a USB thumb drive, so when any laptop enters the network, for instance, the profile may be acquired from the thumb drive inserted into that laptop, and setup becomes automatic.

Well, Microsoft has finally rallied, so to speak, and the feature will finally be standard equipment for Vista wireless network users. Other new features Microsoft alluded to for the first time yesterday include improved compatibility with third-party security products, including (say it with me...at long last) ZoneAlarm.


Update banner (stretched)

3:25 pm EDT April 29, 2009 - A Microsoft spokesperson told Betanews this afternoon that the Vista SP2 RTM will only be distributed to OEMs initially, and would only give Q2 2009 as the timeframe for a public distribution.

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