Microsoft nixes Vista SP1 for IT pros until later this month

Although Microsoft confirmed Monday that beta testers of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) can now download the final bits of the update, it will not make the code available to IT pros and developers who subscribe to TechNet or the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) until later this month.

That is a slight change from its position last week, when it slated the vague "early March" as the release date for subscribers.

In a post to the company's Vista blog, Mike Nash, vice president of Windows product management, announced that as of Friday, SP1's beta testers were able to download the RTM, or release to manufacturing, edition from the Connect Web site.

Also, the English-language 32- and 64-bit versions of Vista SP1 will be available to Volume Licensing customers on Friday, Feb. 15, as a full-install download that will require burning to a DVD.

But TechNet and MSDN subscribers, who pay hundreds or thousands of dollars annually for the right to download Microsoft software for testing and development purposes, remain out in the cold for now. "Later this month, SP1 will be available to MSDN and TechNet Plus subscribers," Nash said.

Asked about the change in schedule for delivering SP1 RTM, a Microsoft spokeswoman said she had no additional information or a more specific timeline than what Nash offered.

It's unlikely the change will sooth the anger of subscribers who used the comments section of a Microsoft blog last week to vent their frustration at the release policy, calling the decision a "debacle" and "boneheaded."

It is now impossible to gauge reaction from those same users: Microsoft shuttered the comments section of that blog post Saturday afternoon. "New Comments to this post are disabled," the blog now reads.

A Microsoft spokeswoman denied that comments were turned off. "The settings for the TechNet blog allow for comments for five days after a post," she said in an e-mail. If so, that's a new policy: The three most recent postings on the TechNet blog prior to Feb. 4 allowed comments for 16 days, 19 days and more than two months, respectively.

Nash, meanwhile, continued to defend the release process and reacted to chatter on forums and elsewhere by users who speculated SP1 was not being rolled out immediately because it is not yet finished.

"I want to be super-clear on one point," said Nash. "Windows Vista SP1 is final. It has been fully released to manufacturing and we do not plan to make any changes to the SP1 code prior to public availability."

General availability of the massive update -- it will weigh in at around 65MB for most users who retrieve it through Windows Update -- remains mid-March, Nash added, because the company is working with a "small set" of hardware device drivers that may give some users trouble during an SP1 upgrade.

Vista SP1, which has been in testing since September, features a plethora of security patches and hotfixes, a long list of reliability and performance improvements, and several changes Microsoft promised last year, including modifications to its desktop search and a revamped experience for users who haven't activated the operating system or have been tagged as running a counterfeit copy of it.

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Gregg Keizer

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