Industry representatives have welcomed Microsoft's long-awaited Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) but stand divided on whether the release will drive take-up of the operating system in the corporate market.
SP1 promises to provide users with easier setup and installation, all previously released updates, bug fixes, enhanced reliability and performance around file copy, network browsing and changes to administration features, such as its drive encryption tool, BitLocker. But while OEMs can get their hands on SP1 now, integrators will have to wait until mid-March because of driver issues.
Although the delay has caused a bit of a stir among the vendor's overseas channel, local partners contacted by ARN say they are willing to wait for a service pack that addresses issues effectively.
"I would be disappointed if they released SP1 when it's not ready," Axxis Technology director, Mathew Dickerson, said. "Getting SP1 right has got to be a high priority for Microsoft because people do hold off on upgrading until the service pack arrives."
Dickerson hoped the release of SP1 would trigger a spike in Vista sales.
"For corporate users, productivity is king and that will be the main market that starts to make major changes," he said.
Calvert Technologies principal consultant, Dean Calvert, was also prepared to wait a little longer for SP1. "It's better to make sure it's right than for it to come out sooner with more bugs that cause angst in deployment," he said. "My concern is that installation takes quite a while. The service pack installation needs to be tested first before it is deployed to the masses on a network." According to IDC PC analyst, Liam Gunson, consumer take-up of Vista has been high, but commercial users have largely resisted upgrading.
"With SP1 we could see an increase in usage, but on the commercial side businesses will still be wary," he said.
Toshiba product marketing manager, Justin White, claimed some user concerns around Vista before SP1 were not substantiated. The vendor is deploying SP1 on its new range of notebooks due for release in Q2 and Q3.
"A lot of concerns were driven around people trying to get very obsolete technology to work on the Vista platform or a lack of experience with the software and getting it to work," he said. "We have seen a lot of people migrate to Vista and we think SP1 will be a catalyst."
Toshiba pre-sales technical specialist, Keith Rothsay, has been beta testing SP1. He noted several enhancements around network functionality and deployment tools as well as support for new technologies like 802.11n. "There are a lot of basic things that were problems even prior to Vista, which are now being resolved with SP1. From my experience I have even seen a slight improvement with battery life around Vista on notebooks," Rothsay said.
For ASI Solutions product manager, Craig Quinn, SP1 will be a milestone in terms of commercial take-up of Vista.
"This is a reference point that a number of corporate users have been waiting for and I think they will pay more attention to moving their platforms across to Vista," he said. "But I don't see a sudden rush for them to come out and upgrade."
However, Acer marketing director, Raymond Vardanega, played down the importance of SP1 for corporate users, arguing businesses changed infrastructure based on specific needs, not because a new operating system or service pack had been released.
"We will see more corporate users begin to test and pilot Vista, but mass take-up will be aligned to their business requirement," he said. "Larger businesses are going through the process of evaluating and assigning that upgrade to a time that suits.
"Acer is providing flexibility between Vista and XP; the service pack won't affect our strategy."
Meanwhile, Microsoft's decision to phase out OEM and packaged sales of Windows XP by June 30 was met with mixed reviews. Optima marketing director, Charles Yan, said the time limit should be expanded.
"For some corporations, migrating to a new operating system takes time and I don't think some of them are fully prepared for that yet," he said.
But Axxis' Dickerson agreed XP should be phased out, arguing the industry needed to keep moving forward.
"I think some people would still be using DOS if it was still for sale," he said. "A couple of the smaller software manufacturers are a bit worried about testing and getting their product ready for Vista because they haven't been pushed hard enough to do that yet."