Microsoft delivers Vista SP1 beta to testers

12,000 users involved in the invitation-only Service Pack test

Microsoft has released a beta of Windows Vista Service Pack 1, a long-awaited reliability and performance update, to an invitation-only group of testers.

Nick White, program manager on the Vista team, announced the beta launch in a post on a company blog. "Today we release the Beta of windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) to a private group of Beta testers via connect.microsoft.com," White said, referring to Microsoft's beta test site.

Microsoft confirmed the beta and partially outlined its schedule last month, and an executive promised that SP1's first preview would be out before the end of September.

Microsoft has invited about 12,000 people to test SP1, Mike Nash, the head of Windows client OS product management, said in a video release posted on Microsoft's website.

A later build during the release candidate period would be available to a larger group. Microsoft has said that MSDN and TechNet subscribers may participate in that round of testing.

Nash claimed Vista SP1 would differ from 2004's Windows XP Service Pack 2, the latest to be delivered. "The philosophy is very different," he said. "In XP SP2, we were creating a lot of new functionality. [Vista] SP1 is just focused on addressing the issues we've heard about."

It will not add new features or capability to the OS, he said.

SP1's beta will be delivered to testers many ways, including a stand-alone installer as well as Vista's built-in Windows Update mechanism.

A Microsoft-employed blogger, Brandon LeBlanc, said users must download and install up to three prerequisites before updating to SP1 with Windows Update. Those prerequisites, said LeBlanc, included updates to the Windows servicing stack, an unspecified update to Windows and an update to BitLocker, the whole-disk encryption tool that's part of Vista Ultimate and Vista Enterprise.

Some or all of the prerequisites would be pushed to users as part of regularly-scheduled updates in the months leading up to SP1's final release, which Microsoft has set for sometime in the first quarter of 2008.

Among the changes to Vista in SP1 are several to the operating system's search functionality. Those changes came out of concessions Microsoft made after Google complained to the US state and federal regulators that oversaw a 2002 Microsoft consent agreement with the US Department of Justice and several states.

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