Microsoft speeds up Vista SP1 release for technical users

Microsoft moved up the availability of Windows Vista SP1 for TechNet and Microsoft Developer Network subscribers.

With little fanfare, Microsoft has moved up the availability of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) for TechNet and Microsoft Developer Network subscribers, saying they will be able to download the update by Friday at the latest.

It was the second time in three days that Microsoft changed the release of the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version of Vista SP1 for the IT professionals and developers who pay hundreds of dollars annually for the right to download and test software before it's offered to the general public.

Saying "We heard you," an unidentified Microsoft employee posting to the MSDN Subscriptions blog spelled out the new timetable: "Windows Vista SP1 anticipated to be available to MSDN Subscribers by end of week," the blogger wrote.

On the TechNet Plus blog, where subscribers had denounced Microsoft's decision to delay the final code until early next month -- and then in a change announced Monday to a vague "later this month" -- another Microsoft blogger confirmed that SP1 would also be available to TechNet subscribers on the same day. "It will become available for both programs at once," Microsoft's Kathy Dixon said.

Dixon was responding to a user who noted the availability change for MSDN subscribers.

Although Microsoft did not specify the day, Friday is the most likely candidate; earlier this week, the company said it would let Volume Licensing customers download the bits on Friday.

On Feb. 4, when the company said it had wrapped up the long-anticipated service pack and shipped it to OEMs for use in new PCs and to duplicators to begin the process of assembling retail packages, it noted that the most current Vista users would not get it until mid-March. Mike Nash, vice president of Windows product management, explained then that the company needed time to identify hardware device drivers that might give some users trouble during an upgrade.

While most subscribers leaving comments on the TechNet Plus blog acknowledged that it made sense to delay SP1's delivery via Windows Update, they questioned the rationale for not making it available to the technical crowd through a manual download from Microsoft's Web site. Some IT administrators, in fact, admitted that they had downloaded pirated copies to begin testing, while others claimed that the delay would jeopardize their Vista deployment plans or push them into dropping their TechNet subscriptions.

At times, the comments became heated. "Microsoft is currently the only place we can't download it from," said a user identified as "IDontGetIt" last Saturday on the TechNet Plus blog. "And I feel lied to as well."

After the decision was announced on the MSDN Subscriptions blog Thursday, users there were upbeat. "This is incredibly good news," said someone using the alias "Kizzer."

Vista SP1, which has been in testing since September, includes more than 550 security patches and bug fixes. It also includes a number of reliability and performance improvements and changes to features such as its desktop search and antipiracy technology.

Reviews of the service pack -- some members of the press were given the final code even though many MSDN and TechNet subscribers couldn't get it legally -- have been mixed. Computerworld's review, for instance, applauded the changes made to the way Vista deals with users when it detects the copy is counterfeit, but noted that tests showed that a highly touted file-copying speed boost was mostly a mirage.

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Gregg Keizer

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