external source: http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/entdev/article.php/3894116/Microsoft-Windows-7-Service-Pack-Coming-in-2011.htm

A week after Microsoft began officially beta testing the first service pack for Windows 7, it has revealed that it's planning to ship the final version sometime during the first half of next year.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) had not said when to expect Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) to be formally released, but given that the SP1 beta was released broadly last week at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington, many observers had expected it to debut as early as the end of 2010.

"It [SP1] will be released sometime in the first half of calendar year 2011, meaning sometime after January 1, 2011," a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

Historically, release of the first Service Pack for a new version of Windows, with its myriad fixes and improvements, has been the metaphorical starting gun for many corporate IT staffs to begin testing and deployment in earnest. However, early response to Windows 7 has been so positive -- Microsoft has already sold more than 150 million licenses -- that indications from the market point to many organizations choosing not to wait until SP1 arrives.

In fact, Microsoft credited strong sales of Windows 7 -- both at retail and to enterprise customers -- as driving the company's financial performance in its third fiscal quarter, which ended March 31, to new records. A repeat of that performance is expected Thursday, when Microsoft reports its fourth fiscal quarter and year-end financial results.

Service Packs typically only include bug and security fixes, and are expected to be more solid and reliable than the original release. That's true of Windows 7 SP1 but its sibling, Windows Server 2008 Release 2 (R2) SP1, adds a pair of new features designed to work better in a cloud computing environment.

One feature, called Remote FX, aims to provide 3D graphics for remote users, while the other, named Dynamic Memory, enables systems administrators to throttle memory use without causing performance problems.

Company executives have gone out of their way at every turn to suggest that the original release of Windows 7 -- the "release to manufacturing," or RTM, edition -- is solid and reliable enough that it advocates that large customers not wait for SP1. For instance, in a Q&A posted online, the company declared that Windows 7 is a "high-quality release."

"SP1 will include all updates previously available to Windows 7 users through Windows Update, so there is no reason to wait or delay their use of Windows 7," the Q&A continued.