We've been hearing rumors since last month that the first service pack for Windows Vista may show up as soon as the middle of this month. All talk of a February 15 release date has been pure speculation so far, but now the head honcho in Redmond has loosened his tongue a little, and signs indeed point to an imminent launch.
As CNet relates, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told financial analysts earlier today that both Vista's Service Pack 1 patch bundle and its next server operating system, Windows Server 2008, have been released to manufacturing. The official Windows Server 2008 launch is scheduled for February 27, so a Vista SP1 launch before the end of the month seems highly likely. In fact, some sources suggest Microsoft could release SP1 to the public as early as today.
Windows Vista Service Pack 1 will bring a broad swath of changes, including all patches released for Vista so far, some performance and reliability enhancements, and new/updated functionality. Some of those new features and updates will include DirectX 10.1, a more open desktop search system, tightened piracy prevention (albeit coupled with a less stringent lockdown mechanism for uncovered pirate copies), and support for the exFAT file system, 802.11n Wi-Fi networking, and the Extensible Firmware Interface. Ballmer expects SP1 to be a major factor in improving Vista's adoption rate in the enterprise.
Update: Microsoft says in its official press release that SP1 will only become available to customers starting in March. As always, Volume Licensing customers will be served first.