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Microsoft fast-tracks Windows 8 Service Pack updates

No year-long wait for Metro fans

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Microsoft has broken with tradition on a new version of Windows by rushing out changes to the Release To Manufacturing (RTM) code on people’s PCs.

Early recipients of Windows 8 are getting updates made by Microsoft to the client code in the months since its release to partners on 1 August.

Changes include extended battery life with increased power efficiency; improvements to the performance of Windows 8 apps and the Start screen; improvements to application and driver compatibility; and better quality audio and video playback.

In the past, Microsoft has waited for the first Service Pack (SP) before shipping code changes made between RTM and general launch. The SP is applied by end-users and administrators in a download from Microsoft.

Changes are typically enhancements made for new PCs and are released to PC manufacturers in the period between RTM and the general release.

So this is a rush job by Microsoft standards. Windows 7 SP1 came in February 2011, 16 months after Windows 7's release. The first service packs for Windows Vista and XP came around a year after their launches.

Windows and Windows Live group president Steven Sinofsky reckoned Microsoft had set itself the challenge of delivering the changes sooner than the first SP.

Sinofsky said: “By developing better test automation and test coverage tools we are happy to say that Windows 8 will be totally up to date for all customers starting at general availability.”

Microsoft is eager to ensure as smooth an uptake of Windows 8 as possible and avoid anything that might create technical difficulties for users or magnify the perception on blogs, message boards and in the media that there's a problem with the new Windows.

It's not just that Windows 8 is completely new for Microsoft, with a touch UI, it's that Windows 8 is completely new altogether, so Microsoft will want to avoid a repeat of the Windows Vista experience - where genuine technical problems combined with chatter on the subject helped categorise Windows Vista a failure before it was even launched.

Out of the gate, developers are sharply divided on the Metro UI and there's massive uncertainty over whether consumers will take to Windows 8 or whether they'll be confused by features like the new interface. By removing the need to install a SP, Microsoft will be hoping it has at least removed one potentially manageable problem.

The Windows 8 updates have been released to subscribers on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and to enterprise customers. The Microsoft Knowledge-Base document on the updates is here. ®

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