Microsoft announced that Windows Vista Service Pack 1 has been released to manufacturing, causing a flurry of excitement in the online press and blogs. The service pack includes bug fixes, compatibility updates that provide better support for thousands of programs and devices, and performance improvements – increased battery life, reliability, and increased network speed. Here are some specifics about what is included in the service pack.

Microsoft also hopes that Vista Service Pack 1 will provide a psychological boost for Vista. You can expect lots of commentary – subtly prompted by Microsoft – explaining that enterprises will begin to adopt Vista now that the all-important first service pack has been delivered.

If you’re wondering where to get Vista Service Pack 1 – well, you can’t. This is one of those announcements that doesn’t actually translate into anything that matters yet. Vista SP1 will become available online for tech support people . . . eventually. Early March? Nobody wanted to give a specific date. It will be added to the Windows Update system in March. Or April. It might be April. Here’s more details about the timeline.

One of the reasons for the uncertain date is a lingering issue – the service pack mucks up computers with certain unspecified drivers. (The drivers are “problematic,” in Microsoft-speak.) The service pack will be blocked if Windows Update finds one of those drivers until Microsoft figures out a way around the problem.

To me, that sounds a lot like Vista Service Pack 1 isn’t done yet, but there’s no way to judge whether that’s fair because Microsoft isn’t supplying any details about the problem. Perhaps this only affects twelve people but Microsoft feels obliged to mention it in the spirit of full disclosure. Or maybe Service Pack 1 can’t be installed on any computer with an HP printer. Who knows?

I’m optimistic. Install Vista Service Pack 1 when it becomes available. You’ll have a happy computer and you’ll be more productive and Mac owners will look sheepish and avert their eyes when you enter the room. I’m just sure of it. Maybe.

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