Microsoft's Vista SP1 Hits Manufacturing: A Milestone (Sort of)

The release of Service Pack 1 could mean higher implementation rates of Vista.

The release of Vista SP1 to manufacturing may mean more adoption by corporate users, say some IT executives. IDC analyst Al Gillen says it's a small factor in implementation consideration. Users, many of whom expressed frustration that they have been waiting for this service pack for a while, can expect to see the service pack in mid-March or April.

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On Feb. 4, Microsoft announced the release to manufacturing of Vista Service Pack 1, which will fix many of Vista's issues. For example, the change log includes two updates to block popular pirate hacks and a lessening of the side effects from validation failure.

"Service Pack 1 is a very important milestone because it addresses many of the key issues that our customers have identified with Windows Vista," wrote Mike Nash, vice president of Windows product management, in a post to Microsoft's official blog.

That "important milestone" isn't available to customers for at least six weeks, which has some users up in arms. Many a comment to Nash's post is some version of "get it out the door already." But for corporate users, the reaction may be a bit different. Martin Resnick, director of operations technology at Norman's Nursery, implemented Vista in 2007, and says he would much rather that Microsoft work out the bugs in the Service Pack before releasing it.

Resnick agrees that an SP1 release is important from an emotional and psychological perspective. He says that when Vista discussions first began at Norman's Nursery, he was met with the question, "Should we just wait for Service Pack 1?" He says he heard that same question from a lot of IT executives at other companies who were also considering Vista. "I think a lot of people are waiting for SP1; that's the go-ahead," he says. "I think [many people see] the initial release as a beta release and the Service Pack 1 as a final release."

A more pertinent question may be: Will the release of SP1 be a milestone for Vista adoption?

IDC analyst Al Gillen, for one, is "not terribly excited" about the Vista security patch 1 release. Gillen says he thinks an SP1 release is more important from a psychological perspective.

"It's not unusual for organizations to wait until SP1 to begin moving forward with an implementation," he says. However, it's simply one small factor in the many factors that make up the case to move forward with Vista (or not). He doesn't expect to see adoption spike based purely on the SP1 release. Rather, he says he expects to see more companies adopt Vista because they have now had enough time to study issues surrounding Vista and feel more comfortable moving on.

That release of the new Service Pack will be delayed at least six weeks because beta testing identified an issue with some device drivers whose installation made them incompatible with SP1.

The remedy was "simply to reinstall the drivers," according to Microsoft—not a good option for nontechnical users and corporate IT departments. To avoid this mess, Microsoft officials say the company is taking time "to work with some of our hardware partners to make adjustments to the installation process for the affected drivers" and to continue identifying problematic drivers.

So what does that means for users?

Mid-March, Microsoft will release Windows Vista SP1 to the download center at Microsoft.com and to Windows update. However, Windows Update will not offer the SP1 update if it determines a driver to be problematic. Still, a user can choose to update anyway through the download center.

In mid-April, Microsoft will begin delivering Windows Vista SP1 to Vista customers who have chosen automatic updates, but the updates won't include the problematic drivers. Those customers will receive updates automatically once fixes have been created.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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