Windows Vista won't be in the public's hands until next Tuesday, but Microsoft is already preparing for the first service pack. The company has confirmed it is submitting customer feedback for, among other things, what should be in the first service pack.
The customer feedback is being solicited through the Technology Adoption Program (TAP), which regularly solicits feedback from Microsoft (Quote) customers and beta testers.
"We are currently gathering feedback about Windows Vista that will influence what goes into SP1. It is important to note that any critical fixes needed for Windows Vista will be delivered via Windows Update, prior to Windows Vista SP1," Microsoft said in a statement.
Microsoft added: "It is too early to provide any firm date range for SP1's delivery. In general, we expect the first service pack for Windows Vista to be released in a time frame similar to that of service packs for previous versions of Windows."
Paul Thurrott, who runs the popular SuperSite for Windows, said he has been expecting this development for some time. "When you think about the timing for this, Microsoft has never released a service pack for an OS within nine months of its release. The predominant reason is to bring the kernel in Vista up to date with the kernel in Longhorn server, and that's the first time they've done that," he said.
Thurrott has been working with Vista since the final code was finished in November, and reports that it's quite solid. So he can't see Vista needing a service pack to fix bugs in so short a period of time following the Vista release.
But at some point in the past, Microsoft wanted to release Longhorn, the codename under which Vista and the forthcoming server were developed, at the same time. However, as the release plans slipped, Longhorn server was put on the back burner and the two products fell out of sync.
As Thurrott pointed out, a kernel upgrade would be needed to provide support for the many new networking and security features being added to Longhorn server, such as Active Directory updates, policy-based networking, the "componentized" operating system and a significant upgrade to Terminal Services.
Gartner analyst Michael Silver also said he expects a service pack to coincide with Longhorn server. He's just not sure when it will ship. "It makes perfect sense they would ship a service pack when they ship Longhorn server to bring it up to date. The question is when is Longhorn server going to show up?"
Microsoft is saying the second half of 2007, but Gartner thinks it could fall to 2008. Then again, Gartner didn't think Microsoft would meet its November deadline, either.
Like Thurrott, Silver doubts Vista will need any major fixes so soon in its lifecycle. The service pack would be about client and server compatibility. "Microsoft has gotten quite good at automatic updates. So a service pack is a lot less important than it was a few years ago. I would imagine the vast majority of critical fixes to be out before the service pack," he said.