Service packs bolster Windows and Office

Service packs bolster Windows and Office

IT departments have an early present this year with the release of Vista SP1

IT departments will have a busy period updating clients during the festive season and into the new year as admins get to grips with new service packs for Windows and Office.

SP1 for Office 2007 has just been released, and rounds up a number of fixes intended to improve stability, performance and security. “Stability was one of the most important themes, so the engineering team was told to take on the top five challenges in each program,” said Darren Strange, Microsoft Office product manager.

Microsoft also recently uploaded a first release candidate (RC1) of the first Windows Vista service pack, boosting the controversial operating system’s chances of becoming a mainstream desktop environment in 2008. Microsoft is scheduled to have the full SP1 ready early next year, at which point many firms that are currently wavering could commit to large deployments of Vista.

Gartner analyst Annette Jump said, “Fewer than five per cent of users have adopted it and many of those are part of early-adopter programmes from Microsoft. For historical reasons a lot of companies still think SP1 is important and firms have often waited a year after the OS release [to deploy]. The timing links quite well with the time it takes ISVs to support the OS.”

Richard Hall, chief technology officer of Microsoft/Accenture joint-venture services company Avanade, agreed that many firms will only now be considering deploying Vista, having gone through extensive application compatibility testing.

However, Frank Foxall, chief executive of UK application migration services firm Camwood, said, “The last calendar quarter has seen Vista deployment pick up dramatically and tyre kicking has near enough stopped.”

However, users frustrated by Vista performance should not expect SP1 to be a panacea. TechTaxi Labs found that installing SP1 RC1 had no significant impact on performance.

The release candidate is about 447MB in size and is delivered as a self-extracting executable. The size of our fully patched Vista Ultimate image, with no applications loaded, was over 9GB, and installing SP1 brought this to well over 10GB.

Also, changes made in Vista SP1 may cause application compatibility problems with programs that run cleanly on unpatched systems. On its web site, Microsoft warns, “There is a chance that some applications ultimately will not run on the final version of Windows Vista SP1, even though they run on Windows Vista today.” Microsoft said a list of these applications would be published when SP1 is fully available.