Most news sites reported yesterday that Microsoft announced Windows 7 SP1 (and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1). I didn't see such an announcement. All I found was a post in Microsoft's blog titled Talking About Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Well "talking" can hardly count as an announcement. Microsoft neither mentioned a release date nor really told us what new features Windows 7 SP1 will have. There will be an updated RDP client that supports RemoteFX, but I suppose this client will also be available for Vista (and perhaps for XP?).
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So what is this talk all about? I attended a Microsoft online meeting for a discussion on SP1 for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2, which was a little more revealing. It is interesting to note that no NDA (Non-disclosure Agreement) was required as is usually the case when MVPs are invited to such meetings. Obviously, Microsoft wanted IT pros to spread the message. So what was the message? About half of the meeting was used for repeating the central part of this "announcement": Don't wait for SP1! Deploy Windows 7 now!
You know there is an unwritten law to never deploy a new Windows version until the first service pack is available. Microsoft is doing everything to make you break this law. One meeting participant asked if there will be a public beta of SP1. Answer: "We don't know yet." Huh? No beta? That would indeed be a "new feature". (Note: He did not ask "when" but "if," and the speaker repeatedly also talked of "if.")
So what can you read between the lines? Microsoft doesn't want to reveal anything about this service pack. We don't know about the new features, we don't know the release date, we don't know if there will be a public beta, and if someone in this meeting would have asked if it will be called ''service pack," then the Microsoft spokesman probably would also have evaded this question. The message of this announcement was that Microsoft doesn't want to announce anything at this point. And if you don't know anything about it, you might as well proceed as if there never will be a service pack. Perhaps the only reason why Microsoft brought this topic up was because of the related announcement about desktop virtualization.
Of course, it is not very likely that there will be many new features in Windows 7 SP1. However, I doubt that the new RDP client will be the only one. Considering that the Internet Explorer 9 preview became available almost at the same time as this "announcement," it encourages the speculation that it will be a part of SP1. Microsoft is fighting hard against market losses in the browser market and the ballot screen in Europe will cost even more market share. Thus the new IE9 with the important marketing message "faster than Firefox" and with HTML 5 support has to gain market share as fast as possible. Okay, this is all mere speculation. But this is what bloggers have to resort to if no real information is made available.
The other question is, whether it is really worth waiting for SP1. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know my answer. Of course not! If you still run XP in your network, Windows 7 will boost productivity and security in your organization. Windows XP is now third-world technology, and the longer you stick with this hopelessly outdated piece of software the longer your organization will have a significant competitive disadvantage and the more likely it is that your network will become a training center for wannabe hackers.
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If you were wise enough to deploy Vista, the pressure is significantly lower. But Windows 7 basically is a huge service pack for Vista. That is, Windows 7 doesn't come with architectural changes and benefits from Vista's maturing process. It is stable and the Windows ecosystem finally has adapted to Vista's new core technologies which means that compatibility issues with Windows 7 are rare. Thus, an upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 is comparable to the deployment of a service pack. And how long do you usually wait to deploy a new service pack?