Service provider takeaway: Service providers thirsty for client upgrade revenue have four ways to quench their thirst with Vista Service Pack 1.
Heard of Vista Service Pack 1? It would be hard to say no to that, of course; this first update to Windows Vista has been well-publicized for a long time now. But what does it mean for the channel? How can you sell Vista differently now than when Vista was nothing but gold code and a bunch of hotfixes?
There are four "touch points" that you can use to illustrate how Vista SP1 is enough of an improvement over last year's Vista to make it purchase-worthy. Let's take a look at those touch points:
- The power of the first service pack. Lore surrounding past Microsoft operating systems was that the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) build (the one on the shelves initially) was, in reality, the quality of a late-beta release and that customers should wait for the first service pack to be sure that kinks and bugs had been worked out. While I think Microsoft has done a lot to disabuse the community of those notions, the negative hype surrounding Vista -- true or not -- has brought this advice back to the forefront of customers' minds. So the arrival of Vista Service Pack 1 is a sign to the masses that Vista is now ready for prime time.
- Hardware and application compatibility and performance. Poorly coded drivers and applications were the primary source of the Vista compatibility problems you and your customers may have heard about following Vista's initial release. Now, with a year under its belt, Vista and the driver and application partner community have had a chance to work out their differences. Additionally, there are some file performance improvements and mobile-battery life improvements (though small) that come with Vista Service Pack 1. So the experience is better on SP1; that's not debatable. A better experience is a pretty easy sell.
- Updating parity on both client and server platforms. Here's something that may surprise you: the initial RTM version of Windows Server 2008 is known internally as the Service Pack 1 version. This is because the Windows client and server are now based on the same code and have the same kernel, and along with this parity, the same patches and updates apply to both Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008. It may seem strange to call the first release of an OS "Service Pack 1," but rest assured, the first service pack for Windows Server 2008 will indeed be named Service Pack 2, and it should appear in the channels at roughly the same time as Vista Service Pack 2. Administrators' lives are a lot simpler when their desktops and big iron have the same kernel and get the same updates. Releases that move in lockstep are a big win for you -- your larger customers will appreciate it.
- The obsolescence play. Microsoft often sunsets the availability of future patches and hotfixes from Windows Update for clients that haven't updated to a recent service pack -- though the company's definition of "recent" is pretty generous. For instance, XP Service Pack 1 users have only recently been blocked from XP updates, and Service Pack 2 came out in mid-2004. So one can imagine that XP, while it's likely to be supported for some time to come, is at the end of its road. Microsoft has indeed hinted that XP Service Pack 3, to be released soon, will be the last for XP. That said, Service Pack 1's benefits, plus the fact that it's free for Vista license holders, make the move from XP to Vista Service Pack 1 a pretty easy decision -- from one well-patched, smoothed-over OS to another that's recent and still fully supported.
The bottom line is that Windows Vista Service Pack 1 offers an opportunity for you to regain contact with your customers on the issue of client upgrade cycles. It can stimulate what you may find is a stifled demand curve for Vista overall and still offer your customers tangible benefits for the money.
About the author
Jonathan Hassell is an author, consultant and speaker residing in Charlotte, N.C. Jonathan's books include RADIUS, Learning Windows Server 2003, Hardening Windows and most recently Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual.