Mike Nash, Corporate Vice President of Windows Product Management at Microsoft, has announced on his blog that MSDN and TechNet subscribers will have access to the beta version of Windows Vista and Server 2008 SP2, six weeks after it was pre-released to a group of Technology Adoption Program customers.
This release is aimed primarily at technology enthusiasts, developers, and IT Professionals who would like to test the Service Pack in controlled environments before deploying it across their domains. It is unlikely however that the final version of SP2 - which is expected to appear around April 2009, will be vastly different from the beta version.
The most significant improvements to Vista will include Hyper-V virtualisation environment for Windows Server 2008 (which will include one free daughter OS with Windows Server 2008 Standard and an unlimited number of free licenses with Windows Server 2008 Datacenter), Improved Wi-Fi connectivity when resuming from a sleep mode, support for Bluetooth v2.1 and VIA's 64-bit CPU, native Blu-ray burning capabilities and Windows Search 4 - which should make desktop search way faster.
It will be interesting to see whether Windows Vista SP2 increases performance on low-end platforms like entry-level laptops and improves compatibility with peripherals and more obscure hardware. Early testers of Windows Vista SP2 build 6002.16597 reported "significant improvement to Windows Vista operating system in term of performance, operating speed, reliability and stability".
SP2 is already available on torrent sites for download as standalone update package (at your own risk).