Microsoft has released an almost final version of Vista Service Pack 2 to its testing community.
The release candidate of Vista SP2 is not yet publicly available, but judging by past releases you may not have to wait too long before the official update ships.
The timeline so far
Microsoft released the beta version of SP2 to its testing community in late October, and made SP2 beta publicly available in early December. Then the update seemed to suffer some setbacks when, in late January, reports surfaced that Microsoft wouldn’t be coming out with a release candidate of SP2 until at least March. A week later, however, Redmond surprised the tech world by releasing the updated service pack to a select group of testers. Now Microsoft’s significantly larger testing pool reportedly has the near-final version of SP2. Judging by the timeline from SP2 beta, a final version could be ready to go within in the next 4 to 6 weeks; however, the Malaysian blog TechARP, which has been right about Microsoft timetables before, believes Vista SP2 will start shipping around April or May of this year.
Vista SP2 is largely about improving performance, and in addition to the contents of Vista SP1, the new update includes 691 hotfixes, significant performance improvements and a Service Pack clean up tool that will recover some hard disk space used by previous Vista updates.
However, Microsoft has included a few goodies that you’ll notice once SP2 is ready to go:
Windows Search 4.0 with faster searching and more relevant results
The ability to record onto Blu-Ray Media through Vista instead of a third-party application
Bluetooth 2.1 Feature pack to support emerging Bluetooth technology
Simplified Wi-Fi configuration tool
Improved file synchronization across time zones
Support for new 64-bit CPUs from VIA technologies
Improved performance for Wi-Fi connections after your computer comes out of sleep mode
Improvements to DirectX multimedia with an improved graphics experience for gamers
Better streaming capabilities for high-def audio and video
Improved content protection for TV programs recorded with Windows Media Center
In addition to Vista SP2, Microsoft is also testing the release candidate for Windows Server 2008 SP2.