Microsoft announced this week it has released both Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows Server 2008 to manufacturing the final stage before a product actually gets into users' hands.
In the case of SP1, at least, there is one catch. If you're waiting on the edge of your seat, you still have a while to sit on your hands -- until mid-March.
Meanwhile, Windows Server 2008 Vista's server counterpart -- has also been released to manufacturing (RTM) and will be available for purchase to new customers starting March 1, the company said in a statement. Volume licensing customers with Software Assurance or Enterprise Agreements can download the server near the end of February.
"Vista SP1 is something all of our customers on the business side have been waiting for [so] we can now ring the SP1 bell," CEO Steve Ballmer said during a meeting with financial analysts Monday morning that was Web cast. Ballmer was referring to enterprise customers' penchant for waiting for the first service pack of a major Microsoft operating system upgrade before beginning wide-scale deployment.
Officially, Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and SQL Server 2008 will be launched at Microsoft's planned "Heroes Happen Here" event in Lost Angeles on February 27.
Visual Studio 2008 became generally available last week. At the same time, delivery of SQL Server 2008, the third product being launched at the end of this month, has been postponed until the third quarter, the company disclosed late last month.
Meanwhile, after more than four months of testing, and repeated test releases, it's a little hard for some analysts to get excited about the final release of Vista SP1, but it's important nonetheless, not least because Vista and Windows Server 2008 have been positioned by Microsoft as complementary operating systems offerings.
"It's a good sign that they're done, and done at the same time, particularly for those people who want to gain any synergies from running the two products together," Michael Cherry, lead analyst for operating systems at researcher Directions on Microsoft, told InternetNews.com.
Both Vista and Windows Server 2008 share the same software core, as well as having some key interlocking features such as Network Address Protection or NAP, which quarantines new devices on the network until they have met specified security requirements.
Microsoft has seemingly taken its time getting Windows Server 2008 done. The first "release candidate" or RC of the server software was released to testers simultaneously last fall with the first beta test copies of Vista SP1.
The delay in providing Vista SP1 to customers has to do with coordinating availability across various distribution channels, according to a posting on the Windows Vista Team Blog Monday by Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Windows product management. That includes PC OEMs, retail packaged product, and download sites.
"In mid-March, we will release Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Update (in English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese) and to the download center on microsoft.com. Customers who visit Windows Update can choose to install Service Pack 1," Nash's post read. "In mid-April, we will begin delivering Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Vista customers who have chosen to have updates downloaded automatically," he added.