It's a rule of thumb: Like measuring twice before cutting or looking both ways before crossing the street, you should never deploy a version of Windows until the first service pack has been released. That way you can be sure that any showstopper-type bugs have been resolved before committing to the new platform. Better to be late to the stampede, the thinking goes, than to end up face down in a ditch with a bunch of arrows sticking out of your back.
Of course, in the case of Windows 7, Microsoft is hoping that you'll throw caution to the wind and roll it out anyway. And given the lack of drama emanating from the early-adopter camp -- true deal-breaker bugs have been few and far between with Windows 7 -- some IT shops will be tempted to ignore their thumbs for a change and take a chance on the RTM build.
However, for the majority of Microsoft's corporate customers, the "wait unti SP1" mentality will prevail (once burned, twice shy), which is why they'll be happy to learn that the first inklings of a public SP1 beta program are beginning to emerge. For example, bloggers have discovered some hidden registry keys related to a download prequalification check associated with an as-yet-unreleased SP1 build. And others have posted a leaked list of post-RTM build numbers that would seem to indicate a continued evolution of the Windows 7 code base -- a good sign that Microsoft is hard at work on an update.
A tale of two OSes
Clearly, the SP1 wheels are in motion early with Windows 7, which is ironic in that virtually nobody is yet clamoring for this combination of patches, tweaks, and performance enhancements. By contrast, Windows 7's immediate predecessor, Windows Vista, was in such dire straits out of the gate that Microsoft couldn't rush a service pack to market fast enough.
Early Vista adopters -- including yours truly -- waited with bated breath for promised resolutions to vexing issues, like registry corruption and debilitating network I/O bottlenecks. In fact, it was InfoWorld's headline-generating malaise that fueled the Save XP campaign and prompted Microsoft to refocus Windows 7 from long-term innovation to short-term fix for the Vista debacle.