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What Can We Expect From Microsoft's Windows 7 SP1

Well, we know now that Windows 7 Service Pack One (SP1) has already been released on torrent websites.

The final version is expected to come by the end of the year, possibly in the last quarter as Microsoft and manufacturers ramp up for the decisive 90-day period between the "back to school" opening days and Christmas 2010.

Many have expressed their surprise when it comes to the fast turnaround for this first service pack as both Windows XP and Windows Vista have had nearly two years between their initial release and the availability of their respective SP1.

Malaysian website Techarp reported back on the 8th of March that Microsoft is trying to squash some serious bugs that apparently affected performance in certain situations although it failed to give more information.

Those who have installed the SP1 haven't reported any significant changes for now except for a few watermarks here and there (Note that we don't condone installing what is essentially illegal software).

Bear in mind though that the main ISO file that's being distributed online weighs a significant 1.35GB which means that there must be some serious underlying changes taking place (ed : the file contains three different packs for x86, IA64 and X64 platforms).

The only official features that Microsoft have confirmed come from Brandon LeBlanc, the Windows Communications Manager.

As of the 18th of March 2010, the official stand of Microsoft is that Windows SP1 will include only minor updates. Perhaps the most important one will be the introduction of RemoteFX, which replaces the current Remote Desktop Client and will be rolled out to match the server-side capabilities of Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1.

RemoteFX features and capabilities are rather impressive on their own and should be a welcomed change to the ageing remote desktop client which Windows 7 inherited from Windows XP.

Interestingly, RemoteFX has been built with technology acquired two years ago from Calista technologies which would mean a paradigm shift when it comes to your remote desktop experience. More here.

Another rumoured improvement concerns some performance fixes for Bitlocker Drive Encryption which is found on Windows Enterprise or Ultimate. Techarp also metions some other "storage related performance issues".

Microsoft has already released a few Windows 7 specific updates and downloads including a number of security fixes and the browser choice screen update for EEA users of Windows 7 and we can be sure that they will be included in the SP1.

Win7Vista, which originally discovered the leaked SP1 file on Bittorrent, puts that number at 239 but doesn't include apparently KB971033, which is the new Windows Activation Technology (WAT) update.

As for the rest, well, most observers acknowledge that Microsoft will introduce support for the new USB 3.0 standard as well as bringing much needed improvements to battery life, Bluetooth, Windows Explorer and WiFi.

The big question remains though. Will Microsoft tie the release of SP1 to that of Internet Explorer 9?

The software company has already confirmed that IE9 will be a major out-of-band browser but we can't help but think that this could be a major coup for Microsoft as it seeks to underpromise and overdeliver.