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Windows Server 2008, Vista SP1 Hit RC Milestone

Microsoft publishing release candidates of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista's first service pack.

Microsoft yesterday continued its hand-in-hand development of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista's first service pack, publishing release candidates (RC) for each product.

The big updates in Windows 2008 RC1 revolve around enhancements to Group Policy, a management framework first introduced in Windows 2000 Server. Group Policy Preferences, as it has been renamed, was formerly known as PolicyMaker Standard Edition and Policy Share Manager. The main benefits of Preferences appear to be more granularity for admins and simplified administration through reduced complexity of configuration scripts.

The release of RC1 means that Windows 2008 is essentially feature complete, with only very minor tweaks made going forward. Tina Couch, who described herself as the "newest member to the Windows Server team," blogged that Windows 2008 will be released to manufacturing (RTM) by the date of the "Global Launch Wave" on Feb. 27.

In an interesting side note, the Launch Wave itself has undergone a name change, now called "Heroes Happen Here." Couch claimed that it's the "largest enterprise launch in history, a whopping $150 million+ worldwide for outreach and demand generation to IT Pros and developers."

Vista SP1 is at the same stage of development as Windows 2008, and most of the changes since the most recent beta release concern installation issues. Vista Product Manager Nick White, on Microsoft's Vista team blog, wrote that the changes include:

  • Significantly smaller installer packages, reduced in some cases by half
  • Reduced disk space needs to install the SP
  • Better cleanup and deletion of files used for the install
  • Bug fixes to smooth the install process
  • More built-in guidance on how to install

White also added that Microsoft intends to "complete and release" SP1 in Q1 next year, putting it on nearly the identical release path as Windows 2008.

Since Windows 2008 and Vista SP1 share most of the same codebase, it makes sense to keep the releases close together, since getting the codebases too out of sync can cause problems. In an earlier story about delays in the Windows 2008 rollout timetable, analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group speculated about the delay. "From the standpoint of servers, Microsoft would rather have [Windows 2008] at [Vista] SP1 level when it ships," Enderle said in late August.

Vista RC1 was made available today to TechNet and MSDN subscribers. White said that it will be available publicly next week on the Microsoft Download Center.

Both Windows 2008 and Vista SP1 have been hit hard by delays. Windows 2008, formerly code-named "Longhorn," has been in development for years, and has had a number of major features altered or completely eliminated; even then, its ship date kept slipping until the Global Launch Wave date was announced. Vista SP1 is a much-anticipated release for Microsoft, as corporations typically wait until the first service pack is released for a product before it's deemed stable enough to roll out on the network. Vista could use a boost, as its sales figures have sagged well below expectations since its release early this year.

The other products scheduled to be announced at the launch event in Los Angeles include SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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