Even though Microsoft has dropped a plan to wait nearly two years after Windows 7's launch to issue a first service pack, it won't deliver the update before the fourth quarter of this year, a site that has accurately predicted past Windows timetables said today.
Microsoft would be smart to reconsider and delay a service pack as long as possible, one analyst countered.
TechARP.com, a Malaysian Web site that has nailed previous service pack schedules for both Windows XP and Vista, said unnamed sources had originally pegged a 22-month development schedule for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1). But Microsoft has since changed its mind, reportedly to address an unknown number of "serious" performance bugs.
"The earliest Microsoft can realistically release Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 is in the last quarter of 2010," the site said.
That schedule would, in fact, fit with the timetable Microsoft used for the two desktop operating systems prior to Windows 7. The company issued Windows XP SP1 slightly more than 10 months after the release of XP in October 2001, and delivered the first service pack for Vista about 12 months after Vista's January 2007 retail launch.
"There's no required rule for a service pack," observed Michael Cherry, an analyst with Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft. "It's a psychological milestone. They've trained us to wait for SP1."
Microsoft would benefit by postponing Windows 7 SP1, Cherry argued. "Windows 7 has pretty good momentum right now, and that might slow down if they announce a service pack. Then, logically, that's when people will wait. It could put the dampers on [Windows 7's] good sales right now."
According to Peter Klein, Microsoft's chief financial officer, the company has sold 90 million licenses to Windows 7 since July 2009.
Microsoft declined to comment on TechARP's claims, or on a Windows 7 service pack in general. "Per Microsoft policy, we do not comment on rumors or speculation," a spokeswoman said today via e-mail. "We have nothing new to announce at this time."
"If Microsoft wants to break people of the habit of waiting for SP1, this would be the time to do it," said Cherry, citing the popularity of Windows 7 and the almost unanimous praise the operating system has received. "I'm not hearing any significant problems with Windows 7, so this time, waiting for SP1 you may be doing yourself a disservice."
Microsoft may also be leery of releasing a service pack because of those positive reviews of Windows 7, and the chance that a flawed service pack could poison the well. "You have a good success on your hands," said Cherry, "so the last thing you want is a bad service pack."
When Microsoft first released Vista in 2007, company executives argued that a service pack wouldn't be necessary because Windows Update could deliver fixes as they became available. Microsoft later backed away from that position. It hasn't made the same argument about Windows 7.
Cherry explained why a service pack was still necessary. "When a person buys a new computer and they go to Windows Update, and there's 50, 60, 70 updates waiting, at some point it becomes burdensome," he said.
Microsoft has issued several stability and reliability updates for Windows 7 since its late-October launch. The January stability update, however, caused some Windows 7 systems to randomly freeze or display the "Blue screen of death" error screen. Microsoft said the reports were not a "major problem."
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.