Vista SP1 due in first quarter 2008.

Official word has come down from Microsoft that Windows Vista’s first service pack will arrive some time in the first quarter of 2008. The plan calls for 15,000 people to have access to SP1 Beta by the end of September with the final release date depending on how many bugs the beta testers manage to discover once they get their hands on it. No new features are planned at this point as this is mainly to be a performance and stability update.

This is significant if only because it’s become a tradition among some segments of the Windows population to wait until the first service pack is released before even considering moving to the new OS and Microsoft is clearly hoping this will help move those folks along. The article linked above is a Q&A with Jon DeVaan who is a senior vice president of the Windows Core Operating System and it provides a couple of interesting insights:

PressPass: How do you know and decide what gets fixed for a service pack?

DeVaan: We are constantly monitoring the quality of users’ experience through Windows Vista’s built-in, automated feedback systems, such as the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) and Windows Error Reporting (WER). These are systems that customers anonymously and privately participate in via an explicit opt-in choice. Through the data we get back, we can identify, diagnose and then repair the most detrimental and prevalent problems users encounter.

Our primary focus after launch became addressing ecosystem compatibility issues that the data showed had adversely impacted some users’ Windows Vista experience. For example, when consumers see a “Device Not Found” message or the systems report back that a device failed to install, we can prioritize getting the needed drivers available on Windows Update or up on the hardware vendor’s Web site. As a result, our driver coverage went from 1.4 million in January to more than 2.2 million today. We also work directly with our partners to improve overall driver quality. We are able to see which drivers are causing system crashes or contributing to hangs and other performance problems, and then work across the ecosystem to bring solutions to market via Windows Update.

PressPass: So what changes should we expect to see in Windows Vista SP1?

DeVaan: I should start by saying that one thing people shouldn’t expect to see is new features, although some existing components and features will be enhanced. For example, we’ve added support in BitLocker Drive Encryption for encrypting multiple volumes on the PC, and have improved printer management by simplifying printing to a local printer from within a Terminal Server session. Service packs typically are not vehicles for new features, and the same will be true with Windows Vista SP1.

Windows Vista SP1 will contain changes focused on addressing feedback from our customers across a number of areas. In addition to all the fixes delivered via other channels like Windows Update, Windows Vista SP1 will address specific reliability and performance issues that have been discussed on many self-help forums, such as copying files and shutdown time. It will support new types of hardware and emerging standards, like EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) and ExFat (a new file format that will be used in flash memory storage and consumer devices). It will also include some management, deployment, and support improvements, such as adding the ability to detect and correct common file sharing problems to Network Diagnostics. Windows Vista SP1 also will include Secure Development Lifecycle process updates, where we identify the root cause of each security bulletin and improve our internal tools to eliminate code patterns that could lead to future vulnerabilities.

As we’ve done in the past, we will document all of the changes through our support.microsoft.com site in a Knowledge Base article, which will be available around the time the beta is released.

Early word has it that SP1 is unusually big for what it’s supposed to contain:

Based on current test versions, the operating system update will be a 1GB file when uncompressed. By way of comparison, Windows XP—the whole thing—shipped on a CD, which only holds about three quarters of a gigabyte. On the plus side, systems that already have the latest Vista patches can be brought up to the Service Pack 1 level with only a 50MB compressed file through Microsoft’s online Windows Update utility.

Also notable, installing the OS will require 7GB of free hard drive space, though much of that will be returned to the user once the megapatch is applied.

This shouldn’t be a problem for most folks unless their HD’s are close to capacity and if you’re running Vista then chances are you’ve got a hefty hard drive already. Still something to plan for if you’re one of those data junkies.

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