Putting to rest months of rampant rumors and speculation, Microsoft on Wednesday said it plans to launch the first service pack for Windows Vista during the first quarter of 2008.
Microsoft will release the beta version of Vista service pack 1 "in a few weeks," said David Zipkin, senior product manager in the Windows Client group at Microsoft.
Many organizations have put off upgrading to Vista until Microsoft works out the kinks that have cropped up since its release in January, which include driver support, performance, and application incompatibility issues. Many VARs have been ripping and replacing Vista from desktops and laptops they sell because of the problems that come with moving their clients to the OS.
Unlike Windows XP service pack 2, Vista SP1 won't include a raft of new features, notes Zipkin. "Windows XP SP2 was a departure from what we like service packs to be. Vista SP1 is about improvements to the user experience and enhancing existing capabilities," he said.
To improve the Vista experience before the release of SP1, Microsoft has fixed earlier problems with device drivers and ironed out application compatibility issues, according to Zipkin.
"We're aware that people are having some variety in their experiences with Windows Vista," Zipkin said.
Vista SP1 also expands the coverage of Bitlocker drive encryption from just the system drive to all local drives, Zipkin said.
With Vista SP1, Microsoft has also made changes to Patchguard, the controversial security technology that's included with the 64-bit version of Vista that's designed to stop malicious code from operating at the kernel level.
Microsoft incurred the wrath of security software vendors last year when it became clear that Patchguard would also prevent third party applications from functioning correctly in Vista.
Microsoft has worked with third party vendors over the past year to develop a set of APIs that allows them to build software that accesses the Vista kernel, Zipkin said.
Microsoft plans to make updates available for Vista SP1 and beyond through Windows Update, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), through a standalone, one-gigabyte software package, or through OEMs, Zipkin said.
The idea behind this is to let customers know that they don't have to wait until Vista SP1 is officially released before migrating to Vista, said Zipkin.
Last month, Microsoft released a pair of update packs for the 32-bit and and 64-bit versions of Vista to a select group of software testers in its Connect program, which subsequently found their way onto the Internet.
However, some of the fixes in those unofficial update packs that leaked have been removed from the Vista SP1 beta because they were found to have problems, Zipkin said.