Microsoft plans Vista Service Pack 1, XP Service Pack 3 releases for first quarter 2008; betas due within weeks

Microsoft is planning to release Service Pack 1 (SP1) for its Vista operating system in the first quarter of 2008, and its beta will be available within a month.

The corporation is also planning to release Service Pack 3 (SP3) for Windows XP during the first three months of 2008, and its beta within the next month.

Betas and final versions of both service packs will be made available via free internet download.

Microsoft will support the original version of Vista for two years after Vista SP1 is released.

The Vista SP1 beta will be sent to more than 10,000 people, said Jon DeVaan, senior vice president of the Windows Core Operating System division at Microsoft.

"Windows Vista SP1 will contain a significant number of code changes focused on the ongoing work to continue making Vista the most secure operating system available," he said. "We are being proactive – these code changes do not represent vulnerabilities, rather they are coding practices that we continue to hone and improve in the ongoing race against escalating and evolving security threats."

XP SP3 is "a rollup of previously released updates for XP including security updates, out-of-band releases and hotfixes," and contains "a small number of new updates," according to a company news release, which added that "this should not significantly change the Windows XP experience."

Microsoft repeatedly highlighted security improvements prior to its November 2006 release of Vista for corporations. It has distributed a number of Vista-specific security bulletins as part of monthly Patch Tuesday releases since then.

David Mitchell Smith, Gartner vice president and fellow, said that the service pack releases do not indicate dissatisfaction with Vista sales or major technical problems, but are an attempt to sway more businesses toward the operating system.

"I don't know that you can read into anything [the release] has to do with sales, but I think that one of the major reasons [for it] is that corporations have been conditioned over the years to wait for a service pack 1 before they start making any serious plans, and that, among other reasons, has slowed Vista," he said. "It's also not a coincidence that it's a year after the release."

Smith added that XP SP3 is a response to Microsoft's realisation that customers are planning to use the operating system well into the Vista age.

"I think that the delays in Vista have basically meant that XP is becoming something that is more a part of consumer and business use, longer than Microsoft originally intended," he said. "To meet these customer needs, there needs to be more support."

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