Microsoft delivers Vista SP1 beta to testers

About 12,000 users are involved in the invitation-only Service Pack test

Microsoft Corp. today released the beta of Windows Vista Service Pack 1, a long-awaited reliability and performance update, to an invite-only group of testers.

Nick White, a program manager on the Vista team, announced the beta drop in a posting to a company blog. "Today we release the Beta of windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) to a private group of Beta testers via," White said, referring to Microsoft's beta test site.

Late last month, when Microsoft finally confirmed the beta and partially outlined its schedule, an executive promised that SP1's first preview would be out before the end of September.

Microsoft has invited approximately 12,000 people to test SP1, Mike Nash, the head of Windows client operating system product management, said in a videotaped interview posted on Microsoft's Channel 9 site. A later build during the release candidate period will be available to a larger group. Microsoft has said that MSDN and TechNet subscribers will be able to participate in that round of testing.

In his interview, Nash stressed that Vista SP1 would be very different from 2004's Windows XP SP2, the last service pack Microsoft delivered. "The philosophy is very different," Nash said, referring to Vista SP1 and repeating the message other executives delivered in August when the service pack was revealed. "In XP SP2, we were creating a lot of new functionality. [Vista] SP1 is just focused on addressing the issues we've heard about," and it will not add new features or capability to the operating system, he said.

SP1's beta will be delivered to testers through multiple means, including a stand-alone installer as well as Vista's built-in Windows Update mechanism.

According to another Microsoft-employed blogger, Brandon LeBlanc, users must download and install up to three prerequisites before updating to SP1 with Windows Update. Those prerequisites, said LeBlanc, include updates to the Windows servicing stack, an unspecified update to Windows and an update to BitLocker, the whole-disk encryption tool that's part of Vista Ultimate and Vista Enterprise. Some or all of the prerequisites will be pushed to users as part of regularly scheduled updates in the months leading up to SP1's final release, which Microsoft has set for sometime in the first quarter of 2008.

Among the changes to Vista in SP1 are several to the operating system's search functionality; those changes came out of concessions Microsoft made after Google Inc. complained to state and federal regulators who oversee the 2002 consent agreement that Microsoft struck with the U.S. Department of Justice and several states.

At the same time it announced Vista SP1's delivery, Microsoft also said it would make Windows Server 2008 RC0, the first release candidate of the upcoming server software, available for public download in the next 24 hours.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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