Vista SP1 is ready -- or is it?

Crucial service-pack code wraps, but when will users get it? That's the question

Just a little more than a year after its first crack at Vista, Microsoft Monday announced that Vista 2.0 -- officially Service Pack 1, or SP1 -- has gone final -- just as had been rumored over the weekend. Officially it's gone RTM, which is Microsoft-speak for "release to manufacturing." That's code for done, as in signed off, as in shipped out for duplication and distribution.

So, after seven months of speculation about whether there would even be a service pack for Vista, then five-and-change more months in testing of one sort or another, SP1 is here.

Or is it?

That's the biggest SP1 question on users' minds, but not the only one, not by a long shot. We'll try to answer the most immediate questions here, but we're sure there will be much more to cover soon.

For now, though, what with the odd release schedule, this will have to do.

Can I get it today?

Nope. Next question.

Super. So when?

Next month. Maybe.

According to Mike Nash, a vice president in Microsoft's Windows product management group, SP1 won't hit the company's download center until mid-March, the same time that it's offered -- but not automatically downloaded -- to users through Windows Update.

There's a kicker, however. In his post to the company's Vista blog, Nash essentially said that while SP1 has gone RTM, it's not really finished. "Our beta testing identified an issue with a small set of device drivers. These drivers do not follow our guidelines for driver installation, and as a result, some beta participants who were using Windows Vista and updated to Service Pack 1 reported issues with these devices."

Microsoft's solution, apparently, is to a) hold off delivering SP1 for another six weeks to, as Nash put it, "[give] us time to work with some of our hardware partners to make adjustments to the installation process for the affected drivers," and b) hand over SP1 only to users whose PCs don't have any of the aforementioned -- but not yet specified -- drivers.

The following month -- that's April for anyone counting -- Microsoft will begin pushing SP1 to users automatically via Windows Update.

OK, we lied. Maybe you'll get it in April. Nash again: "That said, any system that Windows Update determines has a driver known to not update successfully will not get SP1 automatically. As updates for these drivers become available, they will be installed automatically by Windows Update, which will unblock these systems from getting Service Pack 1."

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