Microsoft confirmed Thursday that although it isn't due to release the long-awaited public beta test version of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) until the end of July, it has already started shipping pre-release versions of the beta to some early adopters.
The first service pack for a new Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) operating system -- in this case, Windows 7 -- has become somewhat of a milestone, especially for IT managers responsible for deciding if and when their company should begin to deploy the operating system. So the release of the first service pack is important news for IT decision makers.
"It is normal industry practice to issue invites to select groups of customers and partners to test software before it is released for broader public beta testing," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.
"The people who have received the beta are part of our early adopter program, as part of the normal process they will receive pre-release builds on a regular basis for testing and development purposes," the spokesperson added.
Microsoft announced in early June at the company's TechEd developers conference in New Orleans that the formal beta test of the first service packs for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 Release 2 (R2), which shares its core code with Windows 7, is set to begin in late July.
However, this week several sites began claiming that they'd been in touch with users who said that they had already received early betas of SP1. That includes Ars Technica as well as German technology enthusiast site WinFuture.
"The participants of technical Beta tests today received a first pre-release version of Windows 7 Service Pack 1. The build number [is] 7601.16562.100603 1800," said an automated translation of a post on the WinFuture site on Wednesday.
Among additional tidbits of information gleaned from WinFuture are that the beta is available in five languages -- English, German, Japanese, French, and Spanish -- and that the beta's size is 1.22 GB.
As with most service packs, SP1 for Windows 7 mostly bundles all the bug and security fixes that have been issued since Windows 7 was released to manufacturing (RTM) last year.
However, SP1 for Windows Server 2008 R2 also adds two new features, both designed to prepare for a cloud computing future. A feature called Remote FX provides a 3D graphical experience for remote users, according to Microsoft. A second feature, dubbed Dynamic Memory, will let systems administrators adjust memory usage without taking a performance hit.