This week Microsoft announced its rollout plan for Windows Vista SP1, the Service Pack that was never expected to exist in the first place. Enterprise deployments of Vista have been light (excuse the understatement), and conventional wisdom would have us conclude that this is because there has been no SP1 release. But I wonder if that is the case this time, and I wonder if you are, in fact, waiting for Windows Vista SP1.
Vista SP1: Why You Should Test Anyway
Before we start chatting about whether or not you are waiting for SP1 (and my goal is to actually hear from you in that regard), let's start with discussing why you should test during the beta process anyway. Whether you like it or not, Vista represents the next generation of Microsoft operating systems, and you will eventually have to deal with it. In fact, most of you are likely dealing with it now.
This is because you'll have outward facing web sites, partners who will need access to some of your resources, employees who want to use home machines for work, customers who need access to your resources, and executives who you can't say no to (well, you can say it, but they'll just laugh at you).
In short, whether you deploy Vista or not, it does represent the future path for Microsoft, at least near term, and you'll be expected to do more than complain about it -- you'll likely be expected to make sure it works where you need it to.
That means you need both knowledge and influence, and the time to get those is during a beta cycle. Vendors actually want you to provide feedback, and if you want a chance for getting things fixed which otherwise will make your life difficult, this is the time to provide that feedback and get it done.
Is It Time to Consider Alternatives?
As it turns out, Apple is coming out with its new OS, Leopard, during this cycle, and with the partnership deal between Novell and Microsoft (coupled with support by Dell), SuSe is looking vastly more attractive than it has.
If you are like most shops, there is likely some pressure to at least consider alternatives, and now would be a good time to do that. Your choices might be different than mine, but at the very least this will give you additional ideas for what Microsoft might be able to do with SP1, more likely a future maintenance release, or next full release, of the product. Of course there is already a wish list of things folks want badly for the next version of Windows.
Having to jump vendors can be very painful and, if you don't have to do it, I think most of us would prefer not having the aggravation, so it has always been my belief that the easiest initial path it to get the platform fixed and to only use the threat of replacement to get the vendor, any vendor, to listen.
Testing alternative platforms could help you do that, and getting the attention of Microsoft is typically a very difficult process. During a beta cycle, however, it should be vastly easier.
SP1: Why It Almost Didn't Exist
Windows Vista was designed with the idea of constant updates. Originally we needed service packs because people didn't apply patches as they came out for a lot of reasons and, when they had to catch up, applying patches out of sequence could lead to all kinds of interesting (read: really nasty) problems. So a service pack was a quick way to get a system up to the current code level without (hopefully) creating colorful black or blue screens.
But, post 2000, a changing wave of viruses and attacks forced the industry to step up and more aggressively patch. It was believed that, given this, service packs were obsolete (people simply couldn't wait for them) and that they were no longer needed. Unfortunately no one really thought about the re-education process such a move would require, or that there needs to be some kind of event that indicates the product is not longer a .0 offering and that most of the initial pain is over. This last obstacle is going to be hard to get around because whether you have a platform like Windows, or a device like the iPhone, most of us will likely avoid a .0 offering; if there is nothing to signal the .0 pain is done we probably will avoid the product indefinitely.
So, if we are able to get rid of Service Packs in the future we'll likely have to replace them with point releases that happen in the same time frame so those that don't like to be on the bleeding edge (read 98 percent of the folks out there) know when to buy the offering.
Are you Waiting for SP1
If you are currently running a Windows XP shop and will take a moment, I'd like to hear from you whether you are waiting for SP1. In addition, and these are really two questions, whether you plan to test with SP1 and, for both, the primary reason why or why not.
This will help me understand your thinking and I'll factor that into my own.
Regardless, my initial experience with SP1 has been good, but I'm an individual and this needs to go through a full enterprise test. Would love to also hear back, from those that are testing this, what your experiences are and what you think of the product.