Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) could be available within weeks, according to sources close to Microsoft.
Microsoft has scheduled the first major Vista update for the first quarter of the year, but some say it will be launched more than a month before the quarter ends on 31 March.
A Taiwanese news outlet reported yesterday that Vista SP1 would be released on 15 February. However, "that date is as good as any other", according to Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "For all we know, they could make it available tomorrow."
Microsoft declined to comment on the 15 February date beyond reiterating the software would be available in the first quarter. Still, several sources who work closely with Microsoft said a mid-February release is not unlikely, and they expect the software to be out before the end of March.
Chris Swenson, director of software industry analysis for the NPD Group, said that analysts have heard 15 February as the target for SP1, but it's not something Microsoft would confirm publicly to give itself time to make adjustments in case of negative feedback on the current release of the software.
Microsoft released Vista SP1 Release Candidate (RC) in December, but then refreshed that software in a public release earlier this month.
Several Microsoft partners said they could not confirm 15 February as the date for SP1's release, but said they expect the software soon for a number of reasons.
One of those is the strength of the release candidate, said Brian Randell, a senior consultant with MCW Technologies. He has been using the SP1 RC and it's stable and running well so, "I can't see why [the final release] wouldn't be out soon".
Microsoft's hesitancy to give a firm date for SP1 means the company is confident it can get the final release out on time, said Andrew Brust, chief, new technology for consulting firm twentysix New York. However, he agreed with NPD's Swenson that the company wants to give itself room for last-minute changes. "They are not ready to promise anything beyond Q1," he said. Brust is a regional director of Microsoft partners and works closely with the company.
Many believe the SP1 milestone is the one that will bring about a new wave of adoption for Vista, especially among business customers that have been awaiting the service pack's release before updating employee desktops. The combination of SP1 and Windows Server 2008, due out on February 27, is expected to bode well for Vista adoption in the enterprise and medium-sized business sectors.
One date Cherry said Microsoft probably won't release SP1 is the next scheduled Patch Tuesday, 12 February. Patch Tuesday refers to the second Tuesday of every month when Microsoft sends out software patches and updates via its automatic updating services.
"Hopefully, they would keep the release of monthly patches separate from the release of a service pack," Cherry said.