Microsoft (news, site) quietly let slip the release of Windows 7 Service Pack 1, signaling a rush of enterprise upgrades and, we pray, the end of IE6.

The Wait is Over, Windows SP1 has Arrived 

Enterprises have long been told to wait until the first Service Pack (SP) has been released for a Windows operating system before upgrading. That day has finally arrived for those keen on adopting Windows 7 but have been holding off until the SP release.

The final production version of SP1 won't be released until early next year, but with no major changes expected, and little in the way of new features, this is practically the finished code that enterprises can deploy.

Bite the Bullet -- Upgrade Web Applications

With this raft of OS replacements will go the curse of Internet Explorer 6 with all its insecurities, incompatibilities and other foibles. Finally, many companies who refused to work on more modern or alternative browsers will have to bite the bullet and upgrade their web applications that were coded for IE6. IT departments can now squeeze more cash out of their businesses to get apps upgraded as well as buy new machines to meet Windows 7's system requirements.

Windows 7 comes with Internet Explorer 8 and will nag users into downloading more recent editions of Microsoft's browser. The service pack itself doesn't add much in the way of new features, consisting largely of fixes and updates already available to existing Windows 7 users. It is more the actual existence of SP1 that will trigger enterprises to upgrade, rather than the features.

One new feature that admins will find useful is the addition of a Remote Desktop client that is designed to work with RemoteFX, a new remote-access platform. RemoteFX ships with Windows Server 2008 and lets admins manage installations and memory on the fly.

The Future of Windows 8

Of course, with the maturing and firming up of Windows 7, plus some recent stories about new Microsoft hires, technologies and other snippets, the wheels on the first tentative Windows 8 bandwagon are starting to roll.

An update on a Microsoft blog dated Windows 8 release for 2012, but with the ongoing strained economic environment, and similar strain on the current generation Xbox 360, it is hard to see enterprises, and even smaller users, splashing out more money for a complete new OS.

So, there's a long gap until the next Windows and Microsoft must be cursing that it hasn't gone the Apple route of charging for incremental upgrades but as the drive to upgrade to Windows 7 reignites after Windows 7's initial deployment, the company's sales figures should show a distinct benefit from Service Pack 1's arrival.