(cross post from Windows Vista buttonhttp://blogs.technet.com/cdnitmanagers/archive/2008/02/11/managing-a-smooth-windows-vista-sp1-deployment.aspx)

Earlier this month, both Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista SP1 were released to manufacturing (RTM), which is great news for IT shops that have been working with beta versions and are eager to get the released code.

However, there has been a bit of extra noise in the blogosphere particularly about the delay between RTM and availability of Windows Vista SP1. Mike Nash has great information on a post on his blog here.  In it, he lays out the availability schedule:

"In mid-March, we will release Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Update (in English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese) and to the download center on microsoft.com.  Customers who visit Windows Update can choose to install Service Pack 1.  If Windows Update determines that the system has one of the drivers we know to be problematic, then Windows Update will not offer SP1.  Since we know that some customers may want to update to SP1 anyhow, the download center will allow anyone who wants to install SP1 to do so.

In mid-April, we will begin delivering Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Vista customers who have chosen to have updates downloaded automatically.  That said, any system that Windows Update determines has a driver known to not update successfully will not get SP1 automatically.  As updates for these drivers become available, they will be installed automatically by Windows Update, which will unblock these systems from getting Service Pack 1.  The result is that more and more systems will automatically get SP1, but only when we are confident they will have a good experience.

The remaining languages will RTM in April."

Why is the RTM version not being made available to IT Pros to start kicking the tires sooner than mid-March? We heard your concerns and so it is being made available to you earlier. The latest schedule update has Volume Licensing customers and MSDN / TechNet subscribers getting the released code by the end of February (read more on Mike’s blog here).

Why is there a delay between RTM and when customers, subscribers and the general public will be able to get SP1? This is due to driver issues, which are not updated by Microsoft but by hardware vendors. The extra time will result in more successful experiences for those updating to SP1. While the majority of driver problems can be solved by uninstalling and reinstalling the offending driver and this is a simple task for an individual, it's more daunting for corporations which have many computers to update all at once, as noted by this ComputerWorld article.  So hang in there, it’s coming!

For resources to help you deploy Windows Vista, check out the Vista Springboard site which is full of tools, editorials and deployment stories to help you discover, explore, pilot and rollout Vista to your organization. Keep in mind that even if you don't have access to SP1 right now, the underlying architecture of Vista will not changing so testing and piloting without SP1 will still give you valuable information on how Windows Vista will perform in your environment (see a post I wrote earlier about this).