Microsoft's Windows Vista Service Pack 1 has hit the RTM milestone, so if you've been waiting for SP1 to begin your organization's move to Vista, now is the time to start turning over your upgrade engines. On the other hand, if the conventional wisdom around the SP1 marker isn't enough to get your Vista testing efforts in gear, Microsoft's planned June 30 halt to sales of shrink-wrapped or OEM copies of Windows XP means that if your company is going to get ahead of Vista, it's now or never.
On the whole, Vista Service Pack 1, which becomes generally available in mid-March, is a fairly staid update with very little in the way of new features or cosmetic changes. SP1 consists of a rollup of Vista's first year of security and bug fixes, new support for a handful of emerging hardware and software standards, and an update to Vista's kernel and core systems that brings the operating system in line with Windows Server 2008, which was also recently released to manufacturing. SP1 also features a handful of performance improvements around file copy operations, which I was able to confirm during my tests in our lab.
While the faster file copy operations are welcome, they're not going to radically change your Windows Vista user experience. What's more, while Vista SP1 addresses some of the performance shortcomings from Vista's initial RTM release, the new operating system will still be a bit slower than Windows XP on the same hardware.
Whether Windows Vista is ready for use at your organization will depend most heavily on whether your hardware and software providers have embraced Vista. For most new hardware and software products, it's safe to assume Vista support. However, among products first sold before Vista hit the shelves just over a year ago, the status of Vista support depends largely upon how willing these vendors have been to extend the life of already sold products at the potential cost of new sales.
In any case, while Windows XP still has life left in it (SP3 for XP should be shipping fairly soon), the fact that Microsoft will soon be turning off the tap for certain XP license sources means that if your company intends to continue running Windows, you're going to have to deal with Vista. I recommend that sites that have yet to kick off their Vista tests make plans to do so soon.