Vista SP1 beta weeks away; final due in Q1 '08

Microsoft also will release XP SP3 -- the final service pack -- at same time

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There are no changes to Vista's virtualization features, Zipkin said.

As for XP SP3, the main new feature is Network Access Protection. Now available only in Vista, NAP reports the security status of a PC to a Windows Server, which can quarantine the PC and block any network traffic to and from the computer if it appears compromised.

Hugging the middle of the road?

For consumers and small businesses, SP1 will come in the form of a 50MB .exe file. For corporations using Windows Server Update Services, System Center Configuration Manager 2007, or other professional deployment tools, SP1 will come in the form of either 32-bit or 64-bit 1GB files; some of the bulk can be chalked up to the inclusion in those files of every single language version. The deployment tools will help push out only the needed updates and the right language version to each PC, Kleynhans said.

Windows Genuine Advantage validation will not be performed when SP1 is downloaded and installed.

Brett Waldman, an analyst at IDC, said the changes between Vista and SP1 are minor enough that most applications tested for Vista should work fine under SP1. "It's really more of an incremental update," he said.

Kleynhans agreed. "As far as service packs go, this is middle of the road -- not too risky, and relatively uneventful," he said.

On the other hand, "there are still a lot of things that really need to be in Vista for the OS to really take hold," said Kleynhans, referring to well-publicized device and software compatibility problems with Vista.

Zipkin asserted, however, that Microsoft has made tremendous progress. As of last month, more than 2.2 million devices now support Vista, up from 1.5 million last November. A total of 2,076 applications are now certified as working with Vista, up from 254 in November.

They include a number of virtual private networking and enterprise antivirus tools, Zipkin said, that previously failed to work well with Vista.

More resources

For those interested in finding out more details about SP1, Windows XP SP3, and Windows Server 2008 here are more resources:

Preston Gralla contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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