Everybody who has used Windows probably remembers installing service packs on their favorite version of Windows. For those who don't know, Windows service packs (or SPs) are packages that include a collection of updates, fixes, and enhancements to the particular version of Windows they are made for. They often bring increased performance and reliability. The era of Service Packs may be coming to an end, however. The number of service packs for each windows version is steadily decreasing. Below is a list of each Windows version and its service packs, going back to Windows 2000.
- Windows 2000: There were 4 service packs (SP1 to SP4), with an update rollup after SP4
- Windows XP: There were 3 service packs for the 32-bit versions, and 2 for the 64-bit version
- Windows Vista: 2 service packs for all versions
- Windows 7: 1 service pack, with no assurances on a future one being released
As shown, this number is declining, and service packs may cease entirely, if hints from Microsoft are correct. As Neowin reported recently, Microsoft is issuing an update before Windows 8 hits general availability (GA). The update itself is a whopping 170 megabytes (MB), with updates to performance, power management, media playback, and compatibility. According to PCWorld, this is the first time Microsoft has ever updated Windows between hitting RTM and release to retail stores.
Jason Miller, who is in charge of R&D at the virtualization company VMWare, has said the following:
"We've never seen them do something like this before. They're definitely changing how they do things to add more features on the fly."
Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows division, has essentially stated as much on the Building Windows 8 blog:
"During the final months of Windows 8 we challenged ourselves to create the tools and processes to be able to deliver these 'post-RTM' updates sooner than a service pack," Sinofsky wrote. "By developing better test automation and test coverage tools ... Windows 8 will be totally up to date for all customers starting at General Availability."
Some have already pegged this update as Service Pack 0.1, and it remains to be seen whether Microsoft will continue to deploy a stream of constant enhancements, instead of waiting to release a service pack. In this situation, only time will tell. However, this is a strange break from tradition for even Microsoft.