By Wily Ferret: Wednesday 29 August 2007, 18:33 (The Inquirer)
MICROSOFT HAS finally publicly announced its plans for the roll out of beta versions of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows XP Service Pack 3. In a long Q&A announcement, the Vole has published the details of what's in, what's out and when it's due.
Vista SP1 will be entering beta "in a few weeks" and will be "released to a moderate size audience". Interestingly, this audience does not include standard MSDN and Technet subscribers, as might usually be the case - it seems that Microsoft wants to drill down a little and hand-pick its own testers. The update, we are told, is focused on improving reliability of third party applications and drivers to reduce the number of blue screens, as well as adding business-level improvements.
For example, Vista 64-bit can now boot from an EFI machine, meaning Intel Macs can get the full Vista experience. ExFAT is supported, enabling the usage of a new range of flash storage devices. There's the controversial DirectX 1.01 update, as well as Secure Sockets Tunnel Protocol, an enhancement to Vista's VPN platform.
There are a few decent improvements for IT managers, too, many of whom will have been waiting for SP1 before deploying Vista widely. Bitlocker, the drive encryption tool in Ultimate and Business editions, can now lock any local drive. There's improved support for printers, and better network diagnostics for end users.
Crucially, there's no mention of any security updates, which means either than Microsoft isn't talking about it, or that security updates are really being dealt with through the regular 'patch Tuesday' events. Vista has consistently proved itself to be a more robust platform than XP when it comes to flaws and holes in the OS.
However, there is a cryptic mention of the Windows Server 2008 issue (the Vista client has to be updated to work with the new version of the kernel being rolled out in the server OS). Microsoft alludes to this by saying that some common files between the two strands of the codebase will be updated in the service pack - and whilst "most of these changes do not change the features or functionality of Windows Vista", nonetheless "some of these changes may increase the reliability of Vista SP1".
The download is around 50MB for the 32-bit version. The full release is expected, the Vole sayeth, in the first quarter of 2008.
As for XP SP3, the news is rather less exciting. The full thing is scheduled, rather vaguely, for the first half of 2008. The service pack is basically a "roll up of all the hot fixes and patches including security updates, out of band releases and hotfixes". There are, we quote, "no new features" in the service pack, with the bare exception of Network Access Protection, a Vista feature being ported backwards to XP machines connected to Server 2008.
As for the Server platform itself, the 2008 date appears set on February 27. That's when things start getting interesting