Windows 7 SP1 brings maturity, but not much else

With the release of new service packs for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, older versions of Windows move closer to their sunset.

The first service packs for Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 7 and Hyper-V R2 will be released to customers later this month, giving IT pros support for more Windows 7 guests in Hyper-V, memory over-commit and the Remote FX desktop virtualization protocol.

Microsoft said today that both service packs are now available for OEM partners and will be available for customers on February 22. The company also added a Software Assurance benefit, called Windows Thin PC, which is a smaller version of Windows 7 for IT shops that may want to repurpose PCs as thin client devices.

Many IT pros consider the first service pack the point when it is safe to upgrade to a new product, so the official release of these upgrades is significant. Microsoft released the Windows SP1 betas during TechEd in June 2010 and the second betas became available in July.

The SP1 for Windows 7 doesn’t include any new features. It is simply a combination of security updates and hot-fixes for bugs that are already available through Windows Update.

However, SP1 is still an important milestone, because once a service pack is ready, the previous release moves closer to its end of life. In this case it’s the original Windows 7 release, said Michael Silver, Gartner Inc.’s Mobile and Client Computing analyst.

 “Once SP1 ships, there are only 24 months to deploy it before security fixes are discontinued for SP0,” Silver said. “Many organizations recently got bitten by the end-of-support for XP SP2 and had to pay Microsoft Custom Support -- $200,000 to $500,000 for one year - because they never moved to SP3.  Therefore, all organizations need to plan to deploy Win7 SP1 and have it done by 24 months after it ships.”

Because SP1 doesn’t bring significant improvements, Microsoft had been telling customers not to wait for the first service pack before upgrading to Windows 7.  

A number of customers took that advice, as Windows 7 accounted for 20% in global usage of operating systems share in December 2010, up 1.18% from November.  Windows XP still had 56.72% market share in December, and Windows Vista only had 12.11% that month, according to NetMarketShare, an Internet technology statistics website run by Net Applications.

Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
The first service pack for Windows Server is significant, particularly for desktop virtualization users who will want Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. This release includes Dynamic Memory, Microsoft’s new virtual machine memory management feature, and the VDI remote protocol RemoteFX.

RemoteFX is essentially a set of Remote Desktop Protocol technologies that deliver videos and graphics to virtual desktops. It's similar to Citrix Systems' HDX technology and VMware's PCoIP.

Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based consulting firm, said both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 are good releases, and the SP1 appears to have been well tested, so IT pros shouldn’t hesitate deploying them.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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