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8/31/2007
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Windows Vista Update Due, But Don't Expect A Panacea

Service Pack 1, due in the first quarter of 2008, will come with across-the-board improvements, but few new features.

After hemming and hawing for months over its plans, Microsoft last week finally said it will deliver Windows Vista's first service pack in the first quarter of next year. An initial service pack is typically the "all's clear" sign to IT departments that the major kinks have been worked out of a new Windows release. Microsoft, however, seems to be putting less emphasis on these all-in-one fixes as it moves toward more frequent and incremental operating system updates.

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 will be released to more than 10,000 beta testers in the next few weeks. Unlike Windows XP SP2, which was such a bloated upgrade that Microsoft compared it with a full-fledged operating system release, this service pack is smaller in size--50 Mbytes when delivered through Microsoft's Windows Update or Windows Server Update Services. SP1 will bring improvements in security, reliability, performance, and system administration, and it will roll together bug fixes and other updates that have been issued in the seven months since Vista was launched. One thing it doesn't include: major new features. "This is not a feature delivery vehicle," says David Zipkin, a Microsoft senior product manager.



Windows Vista SP1 is due approximately one year from the system's fun-filled launch
Performance enhancements in SP1 will improve memory management, extend laptop battery life, shorten file-transfer time calculations, and minimize lags in returning from hibernation or standby mode. Reliability upgrades include a set of patches released last week by Microsoft, plus compatibility with new graphics cards and easier printing in some situations.

In the area of security, SP1 will come with BitLocker Drive Encryption, for encrypting multiple drives on a PC, and better compatibility with third-party security products. Microsoft senior VP Jon DeVaan, in an interview published on Microsoft's Web site, said SP1 will include "a significant number of code changes" to make Vista more secure. He said the changes aren't meant to cover any newfound vulnerabilities but represent ongoing improvements in Microsoft's "coding practices."

In an effort to assuage Google, which complained to the Department of Justice that Microsoft gives preferential treatment to its own search technology in Vista, SP1 also will let users designate their own default search tool.

Businesses have purchased rights to Windows Vista at an "unprecedented rate," with 42 million seats issued through volume licensing, according to Microsoft. However, Microsoft doesn't know just how much of that software actually is in use. "We don't have a great view into that," Zipkin admits. A recent report by Forrester Research finds that IT managers are "pulling back" from their initial Vista deployment plans because of application and hardware incompatibilities and an unconvincing return on investment.

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