On 11 February, Microsoft followed up last week's announcement on 4 February of Windows Vista SP1 release to manufacturing with clarifications on who gets SP1 and when.

According to Mike Nash, vice president of Windows product management of Microsoft:

    • Beta testers got SP1 last Friday.
    • The English version of SP1 will be made available to enterprise customers who get their software via Microsoft's Volume Licensing program (soon followed by other languages).
    • MSDN and TechNet Plus subscribers will get SP1 later this month. The general public will get SP1 in mid-March.

Vista customers will have to wait for SP1 while Microsoft fixes some problems with software drivers for hardware devices. Some hardware devices "may not function properly after the Windows Vista-based PC they are installed on is updated to SP1," writes Nash. "This is an issue with the way the device drivers were re-installed during the SP1 update process, not with the drivers themselves."

Over the past two weeks, the blogosphere has been in an uproar over what some users see as an inexcusable delay. For example, a typical reaction to SP1's not-yet-availability to TechNet and MSDN subscribers is reflected by this reader's comment: "IT personnel and developers already have a hard enough time testing compatibility with new versions of Windows and new service packs without you artificially delaying things. You are making us look bad and making yourselves look bad."

Don Leatham, direction of solutions strategy with Lumension Security, whose company's patch management software was made Vista-compatible last summer, has a different take. With the massive number of customers to support, he says, Microsoft must make sure that support is in place for its software. If Microsoft released SP1 without that support, people would be "screaming for support," he says, adding that when it comes to releasing software sooner or not, the vendor is "darned if they do and darned if they don't."

Nash responded to the outcry from many users protesting the delayed public release by reassuring that "Windows Vista SP1 is final" and there are no plans to change code. Any perceived delay comes from the fact that Microsoft needs time to work with manufacturers of device drivers to get the drivers and install programs updated.

Martin Resnick, director of operations technology at Norman's Nursery, completed a Vista implementation last year. He's looking forward to SP1 but says, "I'd rather it get delayed and done properly than have to deal with bugs."

When it does come, SP1 promises include fixing application compatibility issues, making moving or copying files faster, and waking up Windows Vista-based PCs from sleep faster.

Why Service Pack 1 won't lead to a Vista surge

Once Service Pack 1 does finally arrive, will the massive update to Vista translate into a more widespread corporate view? Not likely, says Michael Silver, research VP at IT consultancy Gartner.

SP1 is a milestone, says Silver, but it's not the be-all and end-all. SP1 will get a lot of folks thinking about Vista; but adoption rate increases will likely be due to the amount of time Vista's been out and the amount of time third-party software vendors have had to react.

And we're not talking head-spinning increases. Based on informal surveys at a Gartner conference in October, he estimates that only about 20 percent of corporations are planning to implement Vista, although that number might be overly optimistic when the increasing likelihood of a recession is factored in.

Vista's Place in the Microsoft Ecosystem

Whenever Microsoft brings out a new version of Windows, it takes time for the OS and application ecosystem to mature, says Silver. It takes 12 to 18 months for mainstream vendors to support a new OS, and even longer for niche applications from smaller vendors. These are showstoppers when planning a migration, he says.

Also factoring in? XP love. Vista has great things, but they're not so amazing that they pull many folks away from XP.

The first year of Vista's life [in terms of problems] is not all that different from other major OSs' first year of life," says Silver. But previous upgrades to Windows 2000 or XP were fueled by users' frustrations with Windows 98 or previous operating systems; such frustration gave them motivation to put up with a few bumps along the road, Silver says. "So it's really the perception and lack of tolerance people have for hiccups."

That happiness with XP as a stable and appreciated operating system was evident with InfoWorld collection of 92,439 signatures so far (as of 9 am Pacific Time on 14 February) to "save XP". (To that Silver notes that Microsoft will support XP Professional with security fixes into 2014, and most larger organisations with licensing agreements have free downgrade rights available to them.)

Silver expects that in 2008 many organisations will likely bring Vista in piecemeal as old PCs and laptops are replaced with new ones, but widespread Vista migration will not likely happen until 2009.