Windows Server 2008: Slip Slidin' Away

Keith Ward here, filling in for Ed Scannell. I'm online news editor for the Redmond Media Group. That means I had a seriously busy day yesterday, as Microsoft, which had been pretty dormant all summer, erupted with news. It felt like Pompeii.

First and foremost, Microsoft announced another delay in the eventual ship date for Windows Server 2008. Release to manufacturing (RTM), which was supposed to happen late this year, has now been pushed back to "some time" in the first quarter of 2008.

I'm sure that was a purposely vague timeframe so we media schlubs won't be able to hammer Microsoft too hard if that date slips, as well. Which could happen.

Am I the only one who wonders if Windows 2008 is in real trouble? Microsoft has already sent a lot of functionality (WinFS, many aspects of Windows Server Virtualization) to sleep with the fishes, just to make a sped-up delivery date. And even with the neutered version, it can't seem to get things done on time. I wonder what those of you who signed up for Software Assurance are thinking now, as the upgraded products you pay for year after year continue to not appear.

One other note: I have a feeling the announced "launch wave" set for next Feb. 27 could be more ebb tide than tidal wave. After all, two of the three announced products -- Windows 2008 and SQL Server 2008 -- will, in all likelihood, not be available. Don't be surprised if even the launch wave date is pushed back.

We Have a Vista SP1 Sighting!
Thar she blows! Microsoft has stopped stonewalling and decided to release some real, concrete information on the first service pack for Windows Vista. The first beta (it doesn't look like it will be public) should be out in the next few weeks, and it's scheduled to be publicly available about the same time Windows Server 2008 is released -- whenever that is. It'll contain lots of fixes and performance enhancements.

Microsoft has been mute throughout the development of SP1, even to the point of not even confirming its existence until recently. The reasons for this are mysterious, but at least part of the thinking seems to be that Microsoft is growing less enchanted with the idea of service packs in general. As Vista Product Manager Nick White said in a blog post announcing SP1, "We no longer rely solely on service packs as the main vehicle used to deploy system fixes and improvements. The Windows Update online service is one new way to deliver many OS improvements."

If that's the case, it may cause difficulty for corporations. Most wait until the first service pack -- at least -- of a new Microsoft product to begin a companywide rollout. Without that milestone, IT departments may find it much more difficult to determine when a program is ready for a production environment. Is it ready when the first fix pack comes out? A new feature pack?

Service packs are important to businesses. Microsoft should think carefully before pulling a Kevorkian on them.

Windows XP SP3: Not Dead Yet
Speaking of service packs, the next Windows XP service pack, SP3, should follow shortly after Vista SP1 goes out the door. Microsoft is aiming for an availability date of mid-2008.

It's been a long time coming. There was a year-long gap between XP's initial release and the release of SP1 in September 2002. Then two years passed until the release of SP2 in August 2004. Now, about four years will have passed between SP2 and SP3 -- assuming Microsoft gets near its predicted ship date (always a dangerous assumption, as we've learned).

Notice a pattern here? I would guess we'll see SP4 come out in 2016, eight years after SP3. Ridiculous, you say? Perhaps. But the hyperbole does illustrate XP's continued strength in the market. It may also have the ironic effect of further cutting into Vista's market share: If people know that another service pack is coming up for XP, which they like already, they may just hold off on Vista and see what comes after. It'll be interesting to watch the sales figures.

Vista SP1 To Give More Search Options
Somewhat lost amid all the hype of the announcements yesterday -- and overlooked by much of the media -- was Microsoft's quiet announcement that Vista SP1 will include the new and improved desktop search functionality.

Google and other third parties will be able to add their search tools to Vista -- and actually have them work -- unlike before. It should be noted, however, that Instant Search, which is what Microsoft calls its desktop search tool, works fantastic. In fact, in my opinion it's the single best new feature of the OS. Google and other competitors have their work cut out from them, if they're going to improve on the best desktop search tool on the market.

[Editor's note: Yesterday's Redmond Report incorrectly stated that Microsoft has announced the RTM of System Center Operations Manager (SCOM). In fact, it announced the RTM of System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). The article has been corrected.]

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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