After months of silence, Microsoft is finally talking out loud about the first service pack (SP) for Windows 7 and its server sibling, Windows Server 2008 R2.
However, in Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) inimitable style, the company isn't revealing very much new information about Windows 7 SP1.
Not too unexpectedly, most of the changes to Windows 7 will be small and mostly focused on stability, security, and other incremental updates, such as new device drivers.
"For Windows 7, SP1 includes only minor updates, among which are previous updates that are already delivered through Windows Update," Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc said in a post to the Windows 7 Team Blog.
For example, a series of stability updates released after Windows 7 shipped to consumers in late October are candidates to be included in SP1.
There are more changes coming to the server side, however. "For Windows Server 2008 R2, SP1 will be introducing two new desktop virtualization features: Microsoft RemoteFX and Dynamic Memory. These features are designed to meet the increasing needs of our customers as they utilize virtualization in their environments with Windows Server 2008 R2," LeBlanc's post added.
According to a post on the Windows Server Division Weblog, RemoteFX is designed to display a variety of screen content, such as Silverlight or Flash, on either fat or thin clients.
Meanwhile, Dynamic Memory is designed to enable administrators to adjust how much memory is used by a guest virtual machine on the fly without service interruptions. According to the blog post, Dynamic Memory is an "enhancement" to Windows Server 2008's Hyper-V hypervisor.
The addition of RemoteFX on the server will prompt one significant change in SP1 for Windows 7, however. "SP1 for Windows 7 will ... deliver an updated Remote Desktop client that takes advantage of RemoteFX introduced in the server-side with SP1 for Windows Server 2008 R2," LeBlanc said.
Over the past decade or more, it has become conventional wisdom regarding new releases of Microsoft Windows that the first release is not stable enough for corporate deployment until the first service pack ships.
Given that few enterprise IT shops adopted Windows Vista, instead keeping the majority of corporate PCs on eight-year-old Windows XP, there appears to be stronger than typical demand for deploying Windows 7. Early indications imply that many customers may even deploy Windows 7 without waiting for the first service pack.
Nonetheless, Microsoft appears to be leaving nothing to chance, which may explain why it's started talking up SP1 now rather than later.
Although the company has not give any indication as to when it will ship SP1 for the two systems, Microsoft has at least begun discussing it in public -- perhaps as a signal that SP1 is not that far away.
It also hasn't stopped tech enthusiasts from trying to nail down a ship date. For example, Malaysian site TechArp, which has a fairly solid record of finding out ship dates for Microsoft products, recently said its sources indicate that SP1 could ship as early as the fourth quarter of 2010.