The industry always looks forward to the release of the first service pack for Windows because this is seen as the time when many of the bugs that slipped through the testing phase are squashed. Vista might have been available to business users almost a full three months before it was available to the general public, but system admins are far more restrained than to do something rash like install an OS across their entire system as soon as it’s released.
This is sensible when you consider that when you run into a problem with a new OS, you might well be the first person on earth to press that particular combination of keystrokes or try to do that particular task. This can mean fixes to problems are likely to be a long way off. That period between a new OS being released and the first service pack coming out is seen as a period where businesses slowly come to terms with the fact that they will, one day, have to upgrade … just not yet!
But SP1 is nearly upon us. Around 15,000 guinea pigs have already been given access to it (I’m one of them) and pretty soon a beta is likely to be made available to anyone who wants to try it out. Shortly after that SP1 will be released to the entire population using Vista. That old excuse of waiting for SP1 before thinking about adopting Vista will no longer apply. Sitting on the fence will no longer be acceptable.
The time will come when a decision will have to be made as to whether to take the plunge and adopt Vista now, leave it a few years or skip this version altogether and wait for Windows 7. Decisions, decisions, decisions… How businesses approach this will determine whether Vista is seen as a success or not.
The real question is: whether SP1 will be enough to entice skeptical administrators over to the new operating system or will “we’re waiting for SP1” just get replaced by a different excuse. I believe it all rather depends on what people expect from this service pack.
The problem as I see it is that there’s been far too much hype surrounding this release, almost as much as there was surrounding Vista itself, and that people have blown the significance of a service pack out of all proportion. A service pack is a collection of bug fixes, system tweaks and optimizations – not a major system revamp. True, when Microsoft released SP2 for XP it did result in a radical shake-up of the whole OS, and a whole raft of new features mostly relating to security were introduced. However, this should be taken as the exception and not the rule.
The security features contained in XP SP2 were released to counter web-based threats that had emerged between the launch of the operating system in October 2001 and the release of the service pack in August 2004. Vista SP1 is nothing near as dramatic an update as XP SP2 was. For that matter XP SP3 is nowhere near as dramatic as SP2 was either. (And you should take the claims of 10 percent performance boost under SP3 with a large pinch of salt).
Whether Vista SP1 is seen as a dud or not depends on what people expect from the service pack. If you’re expecting SP1 to mean that Vista will run better on that low-spec system, you’re going to be disappointed. If you expect that Microsoft has tweaked the UI and made Vista more like what you want it to be, you’re going to find SP1 a huge let-down and are likely to complain about SP1 vociferously and claim that it’s a dud.
Others who see a service pack as a way of consolidating the updates that have already been released and as a way to release deeper updates will likely be pleased with the improved stability and reliability that SP1 brings.
If you’ve been keeping up with Windows Updates and installing the non-security updates that Microsoft has been releasing for Vista you’re already going to be reaping some of the benefits that SP1 will bring, because Microsoft has already released several reliability, compatibility and performance updates. SP1 will bring in more updates and more improvements.
If, however, you’ve held off installing any updates other than security related ones, then you’ll get all the updates released so far in the SP1 update. Ironically, people who’ve not been keeping up with downloads are likely to see greater improvements simply because all the updates are all installed together and the results will be more noticeable.
My advice for those wanting to avoid service pack disappointment is to be realistic. Don’t expect dramatic changes to the UI, don’t expect loads of new utilities, don’t expect any kind of measurable performance increase (on the plus side, Vista SP1 doesn’t seem to adversely affect performance either). Just expect your Vista experience to be a little better.