Microsoft today announced that it was preparing to deliver Service Pack 1 for its tremendously popular new operating system, Windows 7, and its business-minded server operating system, Windows Server 2008 R2.
Service packs provide Microsoft with the opportunity to package together bug fixes and security fixes (which have typically been previously delivered piece-wise to consumers over Windows Update). They also provide a place for Microsoft to deliver new content. As Microsoft's retail releases come less frequently than those of its chief competitor Apple, Service Packs are crucial to Microsoft's OSs having a healthy lifecycle.
Among the highest profile updates expected for Windows 7 SP1 is the inclusion of USB 3.0 support. Many manufacturers are already stepping up to the plate and delivering USB 3.0 capable motherboards.
For Windows Server 2008 R2, the big news is the inclusion of two important virtualization technologies: Dynamic Memory and Remote FX. Dynamic Memory enhances Microsoft's Hyper-V, allowing it to monitor the memory usage of all the virtual machines running on the host. The Hyper-V pools all the physically available memory and then divvies it up as necessary. This should help prevent memory shortages on busy virtual machines and avoid wasting resources on underutilized VMs, all at a minimum administrative expense.
The other technology, Remote FX is used to deliver richer graphics to virtual machines. It runs on both thick and thin client hosts. According to Microsoft, it supports "any" screen content, including Silverlight or Flash.
Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 share a common code base, so the simultaneous service pack release makes sense. As to when the release might land, you can look at the history of Windows Vista for clues. Windows Vista's first service pack was announced at a similar time -- approximately five months after the operating system's release. It end up being released in beta form in September '07, in RC form in December, and in finalized form in mid-March. If Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 follow a similar release pattern, the beta could come as early as May, the RC would likely arrive in August, and the final build would air in November.
Interestingly, Windows 7 and it server brethren have been so well received that the service pack may not be as important. A recent survey by Dimensional Research revealed that 46 percent of information technology administrators said they would not wait until SP1's release to install Windows 7. That's a surprising number, considering admins usually wait until a Windows OS hits SP1. It's certainly a testimony to the new faith in Windows 7, both in the public and the tech community.