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First Beta for Vista SP1 Coming Soon

By the time you read this, Microsoft may have already started distributing an initial beta of the eagerly anticipated Windows Vista Service Pack (SP) 1 to select enterprises and users. This is the first step toward a final release, expected sometime during the first quarter of 2008.

This service pack will include the first significant updates to Vista. It's also a landmark for those who habitually wait for SP1 before making deployment decisions. Microsoft has published a white paper with detailed information on the beta at http://windowsvistablog.com.

As always, take the anticipated release dates with a grain of salt. Microsoft says it will take beta feedback and quality goals into account before making final decisions on the actual release date. It's likely that there will also be future beta releases to larger numbers of testers drawn from the ranks of MSDN and TechNet subscribers. There was no mention made of a full public beta.

According to the Microsoft white paper and subsequent blog postings on the official Vista blog, Vista SP1 will feature a roll-up of fixes released so far and security improvements, like upgrades to the heralded BitLocker drive encryption and the new Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC) pseudo-random number generator.

As for the main thrust of the service pack's enhancements, Microsoft breaks them down into three areas:

  • Reliability and performance improvements, including support for a wider range of graphics cards and printers
  • Administration experience improvements, like being able to use BitLocker to encrypt multiple drives on a system
  • Support for emerging hardware and standards, like Direct3D 10.1, Secure Digital Advanced Direct Memory Access (DMA) and the Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol.

While Vista SP1 is unlikely to have the dramatic changes found in the last major desktop OS service pack, Windows XP SP2, it's an important milestone for both Microsoft and users considering upgrading to the operating system. The conventional wisdom says you shouldn't even consider Microsoft operating systems for production work until the first service pack is delivered, installed and tested. Based on the anticipated first quarter 2008 release date for SP1, enterprise uptake of Vista may start to increase by the fall of next year.

Of course, this is also dependent upon steadily increasing application and driver compatibility. The Vista white paper notes the steadily improving state of affairs concerning compatibility. However, most enterprises have numerous custom applications that require testing -- and, in many cases, modification -- before running successfully on Vista. This effort won't be driven by Microsoft, but instead by budget considerations and development resources in individual enterprises.

About the Author

Peter Varhol is the executive editor, reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university level.

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