The company also gave additional timing guidance on a somewhat complicated release schedule for Vista SP1. Last Friday, Microsoft made the final version of SP1 available to beta testers. This Friday, volume licensees will be able to download the software in English, though not yet in other languages. MSDN and TechNet subscribers, typically developers and IT pros, will get access to the operating system update later this month.
Microsoft had already announced that Vista SP1 would be made available through Windows Update by mid-March, with an automatic update to follow in April.
The company is releasing Vista SP1 in stages because the update has encountered some driver errors after re-installation of those drivers during the Vista update process. The final code for the service pack is in and ready, but Microsoft is working with hardware vendors to make their drivers compatible so that customers don't run into roadblocks when updating.
However, technical users often can work around the driver problems by re-installing the driver again, and Mike Nash, a Microsoft VP in charge of Windows product management, writes in his blog that Microsoft has seen demand for an earlier release for technically savvy customers. Those customers likely will want to test the service pack with their applications before deploying it to employees.