Sometimes I think I should run a signspotting campaign for error messages. In this particular case, the error happens when trying to install or uninstall a Windows service.
Since there was nothing actionable in the error message (sigh), it was off to the web. On MSDN, the only “fix” was to reboot your machine. Boo. Fortunately after digging deeper it turns out that all you really need to do is close services.msc if it’s open.
Given that this is a fairly common situation for services development, hopefully this post will save a few reboots. And maybe the next version of Windows will say something to the effect of “service was unable to install/uninstall because services.msc is open, please close the control panel and retry your installation.”