(Source: Reuters)
Customers will be able to download SP1 tomorrow; retail versions will be in stores on Wednesday.

Microsoft's long-awaited service pack for Windows Vista is reported to be heading to consumers tomorrow. The RTM version of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) was first released to testers in early February after a lengthy gestation period.

Customers will have two ways to obtain SP1: a stand-alone installer can be downloaded directly from Microsoft's Download Center or users can get the update through Windows Update where it will be labeled as an optional update. Systems that have drivers which are currently known to be incompatible with SP1 will not be permitted to install the update.

"Customers who visit Windows Update can choose to install Service Pack 1. Any system that Windows Update determines has a driver known to not upgrade successfully will not be offered SP1," said a Microsoft spokeswoman.

SP1 already caused problems for some testers who installed the RTM version, so Microsoft is likely trying to minimize a problematic launch for a larger consumer-based rollout -- the last thing that Vista needs is more fuel added to the fire that surrounds the operating system.

Customers will be able to purchase retail-packaged versions of Windows Vista with SP1 already incorporated starting on Wednesday. Those who pick up the retail versions will also take advantage of new, lower pricing that Microsoft introduced late last month.

Microsoft dropped the prices for Windows Vista Ultimate (Full), Windows Vista Ultimate (Upgrade), and Windows Vista Home Premium (Upgrade) to $319, $219, and $129 respectively. Interestingly enough, offers even lower prices for the software on its site at $299.99, $194.99, and $94.99 respectively.

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