Here's the good news about Windows Vista SP1: it's now on its way to manufacturing ('RTM' in geek-speak). So, why can't existing we existing Vista users point our browsers to the Download portion of the Microsoft website and get it now?
Bad Drivers, Bad! You Stopped Team Vista from Immediate Download of SP1!
Our beta testing identified an issue with a small set of device drivers. These drivers do not follow our guidelines for driver installation and as a result, some beta participants who were using Windows Vista and updated to Service Pack 1 reported issues with these devices. Because the issue was with the way the drivers were installed and not the drivers themselves, the solution was simply to reinstall the drivers. While this worked fine for our more technical beta testers, we want to deliver a better experience for customers as we make the update broadly available.
So, what can we expect? The Vista team blog spells out the timeline thus.
Mid-March - Downloads for the Daring, Windows Update for Clean Machines
Vista SP1 versions in English, French, Spanish, German, and Japanese will show up on Windows Update, Microsoft Update and the Microsoft Downloads site. Windows Update will check to see if any of the installed drivers don't work properly with SP1. If so, then no SP1 for you! However, the downloadable version can be installed whether you have driver problems or not. If some of your drivers go out to lunch after installing SP1, reinstall them.
Vista SP1 will be downloaded automatically via Windows Update to systems configured for automatic updating (and don't have driver problems).
Dealing with Problem Drivers
Problem drivers will be replaced by updated drivers through Windows Update, enabling more users to get SP1 over time.
I Love Quality, But...
While I'm glad Microsoft is making sure that users with driver problems will have them resolved before they get SP1 automatically, I sure hate waiting another six weeks for the final version. Grrr. Here's hoping Microsoft will realize that leaks will make the delay for downloadable versions useless (except for those of us who always follow the rules).
For Those of You with Automatic Updating That Want to Opt Out...
...of either Vista SP1 or XP SP3, you can block either SP from being installed with a simple registry fix or by using the IntelliAdmin Service Pack Blocker. Get details here. The opt-out period is 12 months, which should be enough time for even the paranoid among us to decide they're worth installing.