Vista SP1 to Bring Fixes, Not Features; Due in Early 2008

In response to media coverage and pressure from partners, Microsoft finally opened up about Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Wednesday, detailing what customers should expect of the update, and setting a final release date of Q1 2008.

The gist is this: Vista SP1 will not bring major changes to the operating system, but instead deliver improvements related to reliability, security and performance. Customers will not see any major new features, and in turn, Microsoft says they should not wait for SP1 to begin deploying Vista.

Unlike Windows XP SP2, which was a fairly major overhaul, the goal of Vista SP1 is to address feedback from customers and enhance existing features. Microsoft notes that it will improve the performance of the desktop shell, but will not be adding a new search user interface of update to Media Center.

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Microsoft already released what it calls a "Beta Preview" of SP1 to a select group of testers earlier this month, and in mid-September will deliver the first SP1 Beta to a group of about 10,000 to 15,000 individuals. The company will not be accepting new applications for the beta program, instead drawing from both its Vista and Windows Server 2008 tester pools.

As development progresses, Microsoft says it will expand the beta program to MSDN and TechNet subscribers, but did not set a firm date. This is expected to take place once Microsoft gets to the "Release Candidate" stages of Vista SP1 later in the year.

So what can customers expect? Early next year, Vista SP1 will appear on Windows Update for consumers and is slated to be around 50MB in size. It will roll-up all previous fixes and updates to Vista, in addition to delivering new improvements. But the situation is more complex for business users.

Because Microsoft will be including all languages in a single SP1 download, the standalone update will be about 1GB for x86 platforms and require 7GB of free disk space to install. In addition, SP1 cannot be applied to offline Windows Vista images. Customers will be able to use System Center Configuration Manager 2007 to deploy the update across their PCs.

Although many files will be changing in Vista SP1, which shares much of its code with Windows Server 2008, Microsoft expects the impact to compatibility to be minimal. The company says Windows users should begin testing their deployments on Vista RTM now, promising a smooth transition when SP1 arrives early next year. Microsoft is attempting to fight the long-held belief that its operating systems tend to have too many bugs until their first service pack.

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