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Windows XP, Vista service packs coming in 2008

Vista's first service pack is arriving in early 2008, but IT shops will likely give a warmer welcome to XP SP3, due out sometime in the first half of next year.

When it is released early next year, Microsoft Vista service pack 1 will fix common causes of crashes and hangs. But what it won't do is address the main hang up that IT managers have surrounding this newest desktop operating system.

Incompatibility issues are the core of the problem with Vista that a service pack (SP) cannot resolve. What may be more meaningful for IT shops is that Microsoft will be releasing Windows XP SP 3 sometime in the first half of 2008, which may give IT shops a reason to stretch the life of their XP-based machines longer than they might otherwise have done.

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"Vista reminds me of when Windows ME came out after Windows 98," said Dominik Konkolski, network infrastructure manager at a Chicago-based provider of employee assistance programs. "Vista is not as horrible or as buggy in any way, but do I find it annoying? Yes. My preference is to wait for Windows 7.0 and hope that it is the next-generation XP."

Konkolski said he may be willing to move to Vista if SP1 addresses application incompatibility issues. He has some test machines running virtualization software made by VMware order to keep applications working on XP that won't run on Vista.

For the most part Vista SP1 doesn't address the larger problem with the ecosystem surrounding it, said Stephen Kleynhans, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn. "The problem is that third-party support [devices] such as drivers, certified applications, utilities and tools that work around Vista are actually holding it back."

As for IT shops holding out for Microsoft's next desktop release, dubbed Windows 7.0, Kleynhans believes they are putting themselves at risk. Mainstream support for XP ends in April 2009, and Windows 7.0 isn't expected to come out until at least 2010.

"The big question for IT shops has been [whether or not] the timing will be close enough so that we can skip Vista and still make a transition before XP support runs out," Kleynhans said. "Given the timeframe of [Windows 7.0] that looks somewhat risky. They may find part of their fleet unsupported or they may have to rush to migrate, which is never a good situation."

Then again, shops like Konkolski's are willing to go into extended XP support, which does not end until April 2014.

Some SP1 features

Some of the features offered in Vista SP1 include the ability to uninstall updates in any order, some file copying and shutdown performance improvements, peer-to-peer enhancements such as Windows MeetingSpace or Remote Assistance when both are behind symmetric firewalls, supported APIs so that third-party security and malicious software detection can work with Kernel Patch Protection on 64-bit versions of Vista, and an update to the Disk Defragmenter.

There will also be some added tools for Group Policy management, inclusion of a Secure Sockets Tunnel Protocol and improved BitLocker encryption, among other things.

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