It’s Vista time!

When is a service pack a service pack? And when does it come in waves? It turns out that Vista SP1 is really, truly, finally ready, but only a kind-of, sort-of ready. At the same time, it has to be said that the Ultimate version of Vista has turned into something of a debacle. We were promised lots of Ultimate-only content and special twiddly bits to make our expensive purchase feel more justifiable, but the reality is that Microsoft has seriously dropped the ball with this product. A few dribs and drabs have come out, but nothing to really set the blood coursing through the veins – putting live video clips onto the desktop background was enough to make my eyes go square within a few minutes. Perhaps that was my own fault to an extent, given that I chose to install a video clip of a Formula 1 race rather than some more eye-soothing scenes of wild anemones fluttering in a mild spring breeze, but still the reality is that Ultimate hasn’t lived up to the promises. And now we see that SP1 will be available in two versions.

It's Vista time!

The first one, due about now, will be for the plebs, but then there will be another version for those aristocratic Ultimate users who’ve dared to turn on the multilingual features. Windows program manager Nick White explains it all on his blog:

“We have some information we’d like to share in regards to Windows Vista SP1 and folks running Language Packs. Some of you have noticed that after installing Windows Vista SP1 on Windows Vista Ultimate, the Language Packs fail to appear on Windows Update (KB947875). We will be releasing Windows Vista SP1 in two ‘waves’. The first will only provide Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Vista Ultimate PCs running the following five languages: English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. The second wave will follow shortly after – supporting all 36 languages… But not to worry, the Language Packs are on the way.”

And word on the street suggests that “later this year” is the timescale we’re talking about here, so it’s a bit of a shame if you happen to be using your extra Vista Ultimate features and want, for example, Italian to become your desktop language.

It’s clear enough what’s happened here: Microsoft’s languages team has dropped the ball and not managed to keep up with the development cycle. And Microsoft decided to turn those users into second-class customers rather than to risk delaying the whole Service Pack. This might seem an almost reasonable business decision, until you remember that it’s all Microsoft’s own fault that this has come about.

But Ultimate customers have even more delights to look forward to. What’s this? Ah yes, more add-ons and goodies: “Today, Microsoft is launching a new beta website dedicated to users of Windows Vista Ultimate. will be a site where people can go to learn more about PCs that allow users to take advantage of the capabilities of Windows Vista Ultimate, while also providing Windows Vista Ultimate customers with special offers called “Ultimate Exclusives”, which deliver added value to their overall PC experience. These offers provide unique products and services at special discounts exclusively for Windows Vista Ultimate customers.”

A quick trundle over to the website showed it to be mildly uninspiring, with that rather tired Flash animation look-and-feel – very pretty but with little to get your teeth into. I’ll pass on the jibe opportunity presented by its use of rival Flash, when the rest of Microsoft’s website (including large chunks of the developer portal) is rushing headlong into Silverlight and all but forcing you to install the player on your machine. The release continues:

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