Despite having launched less than two weeks ago, Windows 7 is already on track to have its first service pack ready in less than a year, a timetable posted today suggests. Wzor, one of the sites that slipped out pre-release betas of Windows 7 earlier this year, says Microsoft is already aiming to release its first beta of Service Pack 1 to testers by December and to offer a public beta by January. After this and a second beta, Microsoft is scheduled have two release candidates and to release to manufacturing (RTM) as early as June or as late as August.
A proper availability date is unknown but may come sooner than for Windows 7 itself. Unlike for primary operating system releases, Microsoft's service packs usually have a shorter turnaround from RTM to availability as the company can post the download directly instead of waiting for physical copies to arrive.
Details of what SP1 would contain are equally mysterious. However, Windows 7 has contrasted sharply against Vista with a comparatively trouble-free launch that has gone without major compatibility or performance problems. Most Microsoft service packs usually roll existing bug fixes into a single, easier download but sometimes add new features, like improved Blu-ray support with Vista's last major update.
The update is nonetheless one of Microsoft's quickest turnarounds for a maintenance release to date and reflects improvements brought about by Windows Division head Steven Sinofsky. His control of the group is given much of the credit for Windows 7's much faster and more polished development cycle where Vista's development was forced to restart three years after Windows XP was available.
Apple, by comparison, operates on a very different cycle that releases major Mac OS X revisions every one to two years and introduces "rollup" updates every few months.