Microsoft concedes; posts Vista SP1 to TechNet, MSDN

'We didn't do a great job,' admits company evangelist

Microsoft Corp. kept its promise and released Windows Vista Service Pack 1 yesterday to subscribers of its for-pay TechNet and Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) services, the company said.

Nearly two weeks after a company executive first announced that Microsoft had wrapped up work on Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1), other employees said Thursday that the final bits had been posted to both TechNet Plus and MSDN, where they could be downloaded by subscribers.

"We have posted the SP1 Update release for download through the Top Downloads section," said Microsoft spokeswoman Kathy Dixon on the TechNet Plus blog yesterday morning.

"Feb. 14 0900 (PDT) -- NOW LIVE. Happy Valentine's Day!" an unidentified poster wrote on the MSDN Subscriptions blog.

Subscribers to either service can download the 32- and 64-bit versions of Vista SP1, either as a full-install DVD image or as a stand-alone .exe installation file. For now, SP1 is being offered in only five languages: English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. Previously, Microsoft said it would follow the first five with an installation package that will include all 36 supported languages.

Some TechNet users, however, reported that they were unable to download Vista SP1 or were not seeing it served to them. Dixon said the company is investigating the downloading problem, and late Thursday posted a follow-up advisory that noted the files are not in the usual subscriber download spot. She also offered some additional advice on the steps subscribers need to take to successfully download SP1.

On Wednesday, Microsoft modified the Vista SP1 release schedule for TechNet and MSDN subscribers, telling them, "We heard you," as it moved up availability to a vague "end of week" timetable. That move was in response to an upwelling of complaints that began Feb. 4, when subscribers found out that Microsoft wasn't planning on giving the final code to them until mid-March.

That raised a ruckus. When IT professionals and developers -- who pay at minimum hundreds of dollars annually for the right to download Microsoft products for testing and development -- discovered Vista SP1 had leaked to piracy sites but was not available to them legally, they flooded Microsoft blogs with comments that called the delay "boneheaded" and worse.

Although Microsoft issued no formal apology to TechNet and MSDN subscribers, at least one company employee took it upon himself to make amends. "It's no use trying to pretend otherwise, we didn't do a great job on making Vista SP1 available," James O'Neill, a Microsoft IT pro evangelist, admitted in a post to his blog this morning. "Some of us in the field felt the heat from customers and we did our bit to get the update out sooner. There was a lot of frustration internally."

Microsoft has not changed the Vista SP1 release schedule for the general public, however. The update will first appear in mid-March as an optional download on Windows Update, but won't be automatically pushed to Vista users until the following month. The delay, the company has said repeatedly, is because of a small number of hardware device drivers that won't properly reinstall during the SP1 upgrade. It claims to need the added time to identify the drivers and set up blocking mechanisms that will prevent users whose PCs have those drivers from receiving the SP1 update.

Microsoft has not identified the balky drivers or the responsible hardware manufacturers.

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