It’s probably very safe to say that Microsoft’s [[MSFT]] two upcoming service packs are the most eagerly-awaited products due to ship out of Microsoft’s camp anytime soon, at least as far as most end-users are concerned..
Windows XP SP3 has been through the (rumor) mill for a couple of years of now, with enough fake leaks and “this-is-what-it’s-going-to-be” downloads plaguing the net for quite a long time. Most people looking forward to Windows XP SP3 are hoping to get that last bit of performance boost and maybe a reliability update or two – and to resolve a couple of outstanding issues that have been patched but never officially released; addressing some software issues, chronic bugs, and hidden nasties. But, for the most part, Windows XP SP3 is intended to wrap those hundreds of patches, hotfixes, and security releases that have been released since Windows XP SP2 first made it’s (much-welcomed) presence known on August 6th, 2004.
Windows Vista SP1, though, is – without a doubt - what’s on everyone’s minds today. Ever since the fiasco (a.k.a. Vista RTM) that was pre-maturely (yet after much delay) released on November 8th, 2006; Windows Vista has been plagued with endless issues from terrible hibernation support, FireWire issues, HD-Audio problems, unexpected crashes and reboots, incredibly slow I/O and LAN activity, buggy UAC, and a lot, lot more.
Since November of last year, Microsoft has been steadily fixing bugs and addressing performance and reliability issues it encountered as they work up to the release of Windows Longhorn Server. In our own testing, some these patches are of the utmost importance to reliability and performance, enabling users to actually use the sleep features of Windows Vista, listen to audio the way they like, and be able to – at the very minimum – browse their LAN without suffering fateful explorer.exe crashes. However, like all other patches and hotfixes unofficially released on support.microsoft.com, they weren’t recommended for general use - mostly due to incomplete regression testings and possible conflicts with certain setups.
But now both Windows Vista SP1 and Windows XP SP3 betas have been leaked to the online world, just a couple of days apart. First it was Windows XP SP3 build 3180, and now it’s Windows Vista SP1 build 6001 (both are alpha/beta builds and to be treated as such!). And, of course, two big questions:
- When will the official public/private beta begin for these two service packs? And the official release?
- How did these leaks happen? And by Whom?
To the casual viewer, it would seem these are just two big mistakes that Microsoft is probably bashing its head against the wall because of, but when you get down to it: just how likely is it that the two most valuable products still in development and without a single official release would leak to the internet just days apart? Especially when the Windows Vista build ships as a time-bombed release, it makes us wonder: Is Microsoft really in the practice of time-bombing internal development releases that only exist in the hands of people who have access to hourly builds?
The obvious answer is no. Either these were private builds intended for redistribution outside of Microsoft or they were part of a very smart plan: Leak it. Get the (unofficial) response. Get a real beta out. Vista has been under scrutiny and criticism far more than any past version of Windows – Microsoft cannot afford for SP1 to be a flop, even in early beta form. So they “put out” an unofficial version, get the unofficial response, and fix the soon-to-be-nonexistent bugs. Then they release the beta and prepare for
world domination er, system stability.
It’s just way too big of a coincidence to be one: two leaks in 3 days? For the two most high-profile projects currently going on in Microsoft’s camp? Especially since the only people getting their hands on the initial releases outside of Microsoft are people Microsoft wants to keep happy and they want to keep Microsoft happy too: nVidia, ATi/AMD, Intel, and a chosen few software producers. Plus, there most definitely is a chain-of-custody for these builds, and it wouldn’t take long to find out who leaked it – if it wasn’t part of Microsoft’s plan for this to happen.
Microsoft’s been in the business of keeping things officially secret for a while now, keeping all official information about XP SP3 and Vista SP1 tightly under wraps – but that doesn’t mean they (or someone at Microsoft) doesn’t want the public to know – after all, this is the kind of news that gets those stocks up, makes people think more-highly of Windows, and most importantly, gives Microsoft a chance to right a big wrong.
At any rate, whether this leak was part of Microsoft’s master-plan for spreading Vista around and quelling the rather many uprisings since Vista RTM or if it was really just an (dis)honest leak; we’re in the process of reviewing this pre-Beta SP1 release and we’ll let you know what we find as soon as we’re ready. :)