Everyone has the news. Vista SP1 is scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2008; a beta version will be available in September. That is not really an exact release date, but one shouldn't expect this six months in advance. In this post I summarized the new features of Vista SP1. My summary is based on the white paper about SP1 in the Windows Vista Team blog.
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Security: New APIs for the Windows Security Center and kernel patch protection (x64), signing of RDP files, Multifactor authentication for Bitlocker (TPM + USB stick + PIN), Bitlocker can now encrypt volumes other than the system volume
Better reliability with respect to: New graphics cards and external laptop displays, for some printer drivers, sleep mode, printing in Terminal Services sessions, upgrade from Windows XP
Better performance with respect to: Copying and extracting files, resuming from hibernate mode, when domain-joined PCs are offline, Internet Explorer 7, battery life in laptops, logon experience in some cases, browsing network file shares
Administration: Improved network diagnosis tool, disk defragmentation can be restricted to certain volumes
Support of new standards: exFAT file system (for flash drives), Secure Digital (SD) Advanced Direct Memory Access (DMA) (improves transfer performance), network boot using EFI on x64 systems, Direct3D 10.1, Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP)
There is one "new feature" that deserves extra discussion. I have to cite the corresponding paragraph:
To do this, the service pack will uninstall the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) and GPEdit.msc will edit local Group Policy by default. In the SP1 timeframe, administrators can download an out-of-band release that will give them the ability to add comments to Group Policy Objects (GPOs) or individual settings and search for specific settings.
You may know that one needs the new GPMC version to edit Vista specific Group Policy features especially if you work with the new ADMX templates instead of ADM files. That is, you can only configure such polices on a Vista machine, but not on Windows Server 2003. So why does SP1 uninstall GPMC and GPEdit.msc? The only explanation I have is that that they plan changes for Windows Server 2008 that are incompatible with the current Vista versions. But why on earth don't they install the new version with SP1 then?
There are no revolutionary new features in this service pack which is good news. It is obvious that Microsoft is mostly working on compatibility and reliability issues. So it certainly makes sense to wait for this SP if you didn't deploy Vista yet, even though this white paper is trying to convince us of the opposite strategy.
My main argument for waiting is not that Vista is not yet reliable. To my experience Vista is already quite stable. The point is that Vista SP1 will be a new base for software and hardware vendors. So you would have to deploy this SP very soon after its release, anyhow. But a rollout of a new operating system is stress enough and I don't want to complicate things by deploying a service pack shortly afterwards.
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A good review about Vista SP1 can be found at Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows.