Microsoft has announced that it will release the first service pack for Windows 7 at the end of July.
The company clearly is trying to ditch the stigma attached to pre-service pack versions of its operating systems by understating its importance. Many enterprise users wait until the first service pack (SP1) before upgrading to Microsoft's latest and greatest OS. Downplaying the role of SP1 in selling Windows 7, Microsoft said that SP1 "will simply be the combination of updates already available through Windows Update and additional hotfixes" and that many organisations had already made the leap, without waiting for SP1.
Microsoft also plans to release SP1 for its Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system at the same time, which will bring new functionality alongside security fixes and minor updates. The two headline features are RemoteFX, a package of enhancements to bring 3D capabilities to remote desktops, and Dynamic Memory, which according to the firm allows users to "adjust memory usage without sacrificing performance."
Also announced at the Tech-Ed conference were updates to Microsoft's cloud computing operating system, Azure and SQL Azure. The updates bring a number of deployment options to developers including support for .Net Framework 4, Visual Studio 2010 RTM and the Intellitrace debugging tool. Updates to SQL Azure allow it to support 50GB databases and, according to the firm, allows for greater scalability, easier management and more control over data distribution.
Microsoft repeatedly referred to its search engine, Bing, as the test ground for many of its cloud orientated products. To that end, it announced that developers will be getting access to a Bing Maps SDK that will allow applications to be built on top of its service and be hosted on Microsoft's servers.
According to the MS, this will allow developers to "take mapping beyond point-to-point directions by providing a rich spatial canvas to visualize content, create dynamic mash-ups and help people complete tasks faster." In February, Microsoft researchers demonstrated an augmented reality mash-up with Bing Maps at the TED conference. Presumably the company is hoping to kickstart further development with its SDK.
Given that the reception of Windows 7 has been far warmer than that of its predecessor, the release of SP1, although it's an important milestone in perceived maturity, doesn't carry anything like the burden of its Vista counterpart. To that end, Microsoft might just realise its wish that Windows 7 SP1 will be regarded as a mere footnote.