It's official: We are now in the under-promise and over-deliver era at Microsoft.
Just when Microsoft had customers, partners and competitors all believing that it was going to delay the first service pack for Vista -- not releasing a first beta of it until just before year-end -- the company is set to deliver Beta 1 of Vista SP1 in mid-July.
Word (from various sources who asked not to be named) is Microsoft is gearing up to drop Vista SP1 some time the week of July 16. And despite what Microsoft seemingly led Google, the U.S. Department of Justice and other company watchers to believe, the final version of Vista SP1 is sounding like November 2007.
(November 2007 is also the release-to-manufacturing target for Windows Server 2008, sources say. Microsoft won't provide an RTM date for Windows Server 2008, other than to say it is still on track to RTM before the end of 2007.)
If Vista SP1 is released in November, the Windows client team will be sticking to a schedule company officials outlined a year ago, when the official plan of record was to release Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 (Longhorn Server) simultaneously.
Another observation: If Microsoft releases Vista SP1 in November, it will have been in beta for an unusually short four months. In the past, Microsoft Windows service packs could be in beta for a year or longer.
Microsoft officials have been wavering over what to say about SP1 for the past year. Throughout that time, a number of company execs wouldn't even admit they were planning to release a service pack for Vista at all.
Microsoft's Windows client team, under Director of Windows Engineering Steven Sinofsky, has adopted a much more restrictive information-flow policy. Instead of over-promising and under-delivering, Sinofsky wants the client team to do the opposite. To achieve this, the client team is attempting to institute Apple-like secrecy over anything pertaining to future Windows client directions.
There was a tiny chink in the Windows organization's armor in June, when Microsoft agreed to Google's demand that it alter its desktop-search functionality, seemingly to head off another potential antitrust suit. In late June, the Redmondians said they'd have a Beta 1 version of SP1 (which would include alterations to Vista's search) before the end of calendar 2007. They declined to provide a date for the final Vista SP1 release.
History aside, what's on tap to be part of Vista SP1?
Microsoft is expected to emphasize that SP1 is more about fixes than new features. Most of the elements of SP1 are expected to enhance or supplement features that are already part of Vista, sources said.
In addition to desktop-search modifications, here's a list of other fixes likely to make it in:
* Performance tweaks lessening the amount of time it takes to copy files and shut down Vista machines (Yeah, I know Microsoft said Viista shutdown speed wasn't an issue. Guess users weren't so crazy, after all.) * Improved transfer performance and decreased CPU utilization via support for SD Advanced Direct Memory Access (DMA) * Support for ExFat, the Windows file format for flash memory storage and other consumer devices * Improvements to BitLocker Drive Encryption to allow not just encryption of the whole Vista volume, but also locally created data volumes * The ability to boot Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) on an x64 machine * Improved success rate for firewalled MeetingSpace and Remote Assistance connections
I asked Microsoft officials for a response on Vista SP1's timing and feature set. I did not hear back before posting this blog entry. (If and when I do get a response, I will add it here.)
Update: Here's the response I got from a Windows client spokesman late in the day on July 9: "The Windows Vista team is working hard on the service pack, and our current expectation is that a beta will be made available sometime this year."
There may be more in Vista SP1 than what's on this list. That's all I've heard so far. Anything you're hoping makes it in that's not listed here?