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Vista Service Pack 2 Hits Public Beta

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Microsoft announced on Tuesday it is shipping the first public beta of Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 and Vista Service Pack 2. For the next couple of days, the releases are only available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers.

On Thursday, the company says it will expand that to anyone who wants to download it via a Customer Preview Program on TechNet.

Since the two operating systems share the same core code, Microsoft refers to the pair together as “SP2 Beta.”

“SP2 Beta is an update to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 that, along with improvements delivered to users via Windows Update and via our hardware and software partners, addresses key feedback from our customers,” Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Windows product management, said in a blog post on Tuesday.

Microsoft released limited betas of the two service packs in late October.

Along with the patches and other updates, Vista SP2 provides a few new features. For example, Vista SP2 adds Windows Search 4.0, the Bluetooth 2.1 Feature Pack, and the ability to record data on to Blu-Ray media natively in Vista, Nash said. It also adds Windows Connect Now to simplify Wi-Fi configuration.

Meanwhile, TechArp, the Malaysian tech site with a track record for nailing Microsoft’s operating system service pack release schedules, said Monday that Vista SP2 is due out in April 2009 – earlier than many observers expected and months before the expected release of Windows 7.

The TechArp site says its sources tell it that Vista SP2 is planned to begin the “release candidate” stage – the last testing step before actual release – in February, and will be “released to manufacturing,” or RTM, in April. The final “release to Web” date is currently unknown.

That does raise the question of whether TechArp’s sources really do have the scoop on SP2’s release. At least one analyst thinks they may.

“TechArp is probably pretty close; March or April is where the money is,” Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies, told in an e-mail.

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