In this issue:
Microsoft Starts Vista Service Pack 1 Beta
by Arie Slob
Hello Windows users,
This week Microsoft made the first beta of Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows Vista available for beta testers. According to sources there are around 10,000 testers in this initial round. By the end of this year a public beta of SP1 is expected.
Vista SP1 will not include any new functionality, but will instead be a collection of all the fixes issued so far for the OS. As you may have noticed, the pace of fixes coming out of Redmond seems to have picked up over the last few months. Many fixes are addressing performance issues that have been widely reported by end users.
SP1 will be made available through Windows Update in Q1 of 2008.
So how is Vista doing?
You can find different reports on the matter. Some are claiming that Windows Vista is a success; others insist Vista is a failure. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
It is clear that Vista isn't the resounding success (yet) that Microsoft had hoped for. One reason might be that Windows XP SP2 is actually a good & stable OS, and end-users have no compelling reason to upgrade.
Another reason for the slower than expected Vista adoption is that Microsoft expected businesses to adopt Vista at twice the rate of Windows XP in its first year on the market. But this did not happen. Despite Microsoft trying to argue that there is no reason of businesses to wait for SP1, many businesses still follow this practice and wait till the first service pack has been released before they will consider upgrading to Windows Vista. Besides, for many businesses a hardware refresh cycle is what usually drives their upgrade schedules, and the greater hardware requirements that Vista places on the system will mean that 'upgrading' to Vista is usually not an option, and instead Vista will be obtained when new hardware is acquired.
Eventually Vista will become the dominating OS for users & businesses alike, it will just take a little more time than Microsoft would have hoped it would take.
Windows XP's Continued Success
Another sign of Windows XP's continued success is that Microsoft at the end of September announced that it will allow Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and retailers five more months to sell PCs with Windows XP installed. Previously Microsoft had given a deadline of January 31, 2008; this has now been extended to June 30, 2008. Microsoft's original January 31, 2009 deadline for system builders to sell machines with Windows XP remains unchanged.
Windows Automatic Update Controversy
You may have heard some of the controversy surrounding the latest update that Microsoft applied to the Windows Automatic Update (WAU) software installed on users systems.
An article by Windows Secrets editor Scott Dunn, showed how Microsoft has been updating files related to WAU on users systems, even if users had set WAU not to install updates automatically.
According to Microsoft, silent updates to the core Windows Update files on users systems has always been the practice, although Microsoft now admits that they should have been more transparent about the behavior of Windows Update. You can read Microsoft's Windows Update Program Manager Nate Clinton's post on the Microsoft Update Team Blog for Microsoft's perspective on this.
I think Scott's article is just a knee-jerk reaction to something that I would consider not to be a serious issue. Sure, Microsoft could (and maybe should) have changed the way in which they update the WAU software on users systems, but the WAU files are not used for anything else than Windows Updates. Scott's claim that this goes against "users who prefer to test and install their updates manually" is a bit thin, when one realizes that users (mostly systems administrators) that like to test updates need to do so to test for changes in Windows OS system files that could be accessed by third party software.
Another issue caused by this latest update to WAU files is causing problems for users who do a repair installation of Windows XP. A Windows XP repair installation may be needed when certain (boot) files have been damaged (by a virus or hardware failure). The repair feature restores the original system files, and after a repair install, you'll have to re-install all windows updates to the repaired system. But after a repair update WAU isn't able to install around 80 updates. According to Microsoft this happens because one of the new WAU files fails to be registered with Windows. Microsoft posted a work-around in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 943144.
Let's hope that Microsoft will be more upfront in the future when they decide to update certain files, whatever the reason for the update may be.