Language packs delay Vista Ultimate SP1

Only five of 36 packs ready this month, says Microsoft

Microsoft has told consumers that delays in updating more than 30 bonus language packs will postpone the delivery of Service Pack 1 (SP1) to some Windows Vista users.

Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 will be initially available only to users who have installed the English, French, German, Japanese or Spanish language packs, Nick White, a Microsoft program manager said Monday. Users with one of those five packs will be able to download and install SP1 starting around the middle of this month, but people who have previously installed one of Vista Ultimate's other 31 language packs must wait for what White called SP1's "second wave."

"We will be releasing Windows Vista SP1 in two 'waves'," said White in a post to the Vista team's blog. "The first wave will only provide Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Vista Ultimate PCs running the following 5 Languages: English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. The second wave will follow shortly after -- supporting all 36 languages."

White didn't specify a release date for the second wave in the post, but in a comment later, said it would be "likely to occur next month."

His warning, in fact, wasn't completely unforseen. A month ago, when Microsoft said it had wrapped up RTM (release to manufacturing) and was shipping SP1 to duplication, it also spelled out a rough calendar for release. According to that timetable, Ultimate SP1 would appear as an optional download on Windows Update this month with just the five languages, as an automatic update mid-April, and the full 36 packs sometime next month, presumably after the mid-point.

Nor is this the first install glitch caused by the language packs. Last October, Barry Goffe, the director of Vista Ultimate, noted that users had had trouble installing the add-ons, and said an install component had been patched to fix the problem.

Earlier this week, Microsoft drew a clear line between the delay and an error noted by some users who have already tried to install SP1. Last month, Microsoft handed the update to volume licensing customers, subscribers to a pair of technical IT and developer services, and in a mistake, to some users of the 64-bit version of the operating system. Once they'd installed SP1, those users noticed that the additional language packs had vanished. According to support document KB947875, the only solution was to uninstall SP1.

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White spelled out what would happen this month and beyond with Ultimate and its language packs. Windows Update will show and/or install SP1 only on Ultimate-powered PCs that have a supported language pack, while the standalone installer will return an error if it's run on a PC with one of the not-yet-available packs.

"This means if you are running a Language Pack that is not one of the 5 initial Language Packs you will not be able to install Windows Vista SP1 until the other Language Packs are released, said White.

Vista Ultimate's language packs were part of "Ultimate Extras," an aggressively marketed bonus feature that was to regularly provide add-ons to the top-priced version. Customers, however, became bitter when Microsoft actually released only a few such extras, and complained last year that the company had reneged on its promises.

Coincidentally, on Tuesday Microsoft launched the beta version of a new site, called UltimatePC, dedicated to Vista Ultimate owners. Much of the site shills third-party products at discount, while other sections showcase tips on using the operating system. The product offers have been tagged as "Windows Ultimate Exclusives," a title sure to sow some confusion.

Microsoft admitted as much. "It's important to note that Windows Ultimate Exclusives are not replacing Windows Ultimate Extras," a spokeswoman for the company said.

She went on to say that Microsoft would ship additional more Ultimate Extras during 2008, including at least one game, Movie Maker and DVD Maker enhancements, and new screen savers and sound schemes. "We are committed to Windows Ultimate Extras but the bar for shipping any Windows Vista feature is high and we look forward to delivering them when they are ready." Microsoft has promised, but not delivered, any new Extras since October 2007.

That, along with White's notice of the SP1 delay for Ultimate users, got a reaction from some commenters. " Using Vista is a kick in the pants compared to XP," said someone identified as Karsten Hiemstra in a comment attached to White's blog post. "Using Vista Ultimate just adds insult to injury. Not only have you defrauded your users who paid more for non-existent or extremely lame 'extras,' but now many users who may have installed the language packs have to wait even longer for a Service Pack that will (we hope) reduce the pain of using this problem-riddled OS.

"You and your team should be ashamed of yourselves."