Vista SP1 available for download; Retail availability a mystery

Even though Amazon.com posted over the weekend to its site a note stating quite clearly that Windows Vista Service Pack (SP) 1 would be released this week, Microsoft is declining to confirm this fact. Well, actually, Microsoft might or might not be stating this is the case. It's hard to tell from the latest convoluted company statement (provided below) exactly what is going on.

This just in from the Windows Client team -- the folks who've made clear and accurate communications on behalf of customers a priority (ahem).

Even though Amazon.com posted over the weekend to its site a note stating quite clearly that Windows Vista Service Pack (SP) 1 would be released this week, Microsoft is declining to confirm this fact. Well, actually, Microsoft might or might not be stating this is the case. It's hard to tell from the latest convoluted company statement (provided below) exactly what is going on.

Update: Late in the day on March 18, Microsoft came back to me with more answers. I am publishing them here but letting the rest of this post remain as is because I feel that confusion around all aspects of Vista SP1 has been and continues to be a problem for Microsoft, its partners and its customers (not to mention those of us in the press trying to bring clarity to the situation).

So one more time: Is SP1 going to be available from retailers starting March 19? The new, clear answer is YES!

Microsoft's explanation for its wavering, via a corporate spokeswoman:

"Initially, we targeted April as a conservative estimate for Windows Vista SP1 retail availability for full packaged product (FPP). We were actually able to ship sooner than originally anticipated - today, in fact. The ship date was coincidental to Release to Web (RTW) on Windows Update. Customers should expect to see Windows Vista SP1 FPP online and on store shelves as soon as retailers can make them available - in Amazon's case, starting tomorrow (March 19)."

Here's the rest of my post:

Over the weekend, Amazon posted a note stating that customers would be able to begin taking shipment of Vista SP1 on March 19. The exact wording I got when I clicked to order Vista Ultimate SP1: "Pre-order this version to get SP1 included in the box. Or buy Windows Vista Ultimate now, then update to SP1 online--free of charge--when the new versions are released on March 18, 2008."

Is Vista SP1 rolling out to retail this week or isn’t it?

Today (March 18), the wording on Amazon's site is slightly different. When you click to order Vista Ultimate SP1: "This item will be released on March 19, 2008. Pre-order now! Ships from and sold by Amazon.com."

Is Vista SP1 rolling out to retail this week or isn’t it?

Still, it seems Vista SP1 is going to be available via the retail channel this week, despite the slightly tweaked phrasing.

But late yesterday, Microsoft officials seemed to be saying this was not the case. When I asked for comment, I got this statement from a spokeswoman:

"The Windows Vista SP1 listing on Amazon.com is a pre-order listing for customers who want to purchase Windows Vista with SP1 to install on new PCs or to upgrade PCs running Windows XP.

As we mentioned back in February, some retailers have been planning special promotions on the current version of Windows Vista, which does not include SP1, in advance of the retail availability of Windows Vista with SP1. Some retailers are also accepting pre-orders of Windows Vista with SP1 once it's available. As a result, when looking at Amazon's site, you will see separate listings - one for pre-orders of Windows Vista with SP1 integrated, and the current version of Windows Vista, which does not include SP1, and can be purchased now and easily updated with SP1 online beginning March 18."

But wait. Doesn't that mean, as Amazon's original posting stated quite clearly, that Microsoft was providing Amazon with the SP1 bits on March 18, for delivery on March 19? No comment back from Microsoft. I added Microsoft's new and improved comment at the top of this post, once I received it at the end of day on March 18.

The aforementioned spokeswoman also said last night that the company still was declining to comment on when SP1 would be available on Windows Update beyond its previous statement that it would be some time in mid-March.

Guess what? Here it is now on Windows Download! Vista SP1 (five language, standalone edition) -- with yesterday's date of March 17 on the file. (Thanks for the link, Winbeta.)

Update: Vista SP1 is on Windows Update now, too, as of March 18.

I see Microsoft is now telling my News.com colleague Ina Fried that OEMs can ship new PCs preloaded with Vista SP1 whenever they are ready. Last month, when I asked that question, the Vista team told me that PC makers would not start shipping Vista SP1 on new machines until April.

Update: Microsoft's updated statement, e-mailed to me at the end of the day on March 18:

"Based on what we understand from our partners in retail and OEMs, April is our best estimate for availability for PCs with SP1. However, there will be certain exceptions based on individual companies' distribution models."

Bottom line: It still looks like Vista SP1 is going to available to consumers via retail and Windows Update this week, as many of us reported over the past few days.

And XP SP3? No word at all on that one from the client team. I couldn't even get them to confirm whether the new build of SP3 noticed over the weekend by testers was real and just unauthorized or what.

Microsoft's updated statement (end of day on March 18):

"The XP SP3 5503 build was a minor interim build released to address one specific issue for a subset of private beta testers. This build was not intended for public release and anyone who has that build and is not part of the private beta is working with bits that Microsoft can't verify the integrity.... The final version of XP SP3 is still on target to be released the first half of calendar year 2008."