Microsoft has been working for the past few years to convince users, especially business users, they don't need to wait until the first service pack to deploy a new Windows release.
With Windows 8, Microsoft officials believe they've gotten a step closer, by rolling out via Windows Update on October 9 the “Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 General Availability Cumulative Update.” This update provides post-RTM (release to manufacturing) updates around performance, power management and battery efficiency, media playback, and compatibility, according to an October 9 post on the Building Windows 8 blog. Windows 8 was released to manufacturing on August 1, 2012.
In an uncharacteristically short post, Windows President Steven Sinofsky explained how these updates traditionally have been provided. He noted that during the time Microsoft and OEMs are making final customizations and tweaks to RTM code to create new or updated components, drivers and companion software, sometimes there also need to be changes and improvements made to Windows fundamnetals.
While customers typically had to wait until Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Microsoft to broadly distribute these updates, this time around, Microsoft created new tools and processes to get these updates to customers sooner than a service pack.
"By developing better test automation and test coverage tools we are happy to say that Windows 8 will be totally up to date for all customers starting at General Availability. If you are an MSDN or enterprise customer, these updates will be available for your Windows 8 PCs via Windows Update as of today (October 9), following our standard cadence for Windows Updates on the second Tuesday of each month at about 10:00am (PT)," Sinofsky blogged.
Here's what's in the cumulative update, according to the Knowledge Base article:
Be forewarned. This isn't some small, insignificant update, as Robert McLaws, Chief Technology Officer of AdvancedREI.com, noted on Twitter.
Today's update is interesting to us codename watchers and roadmap trackers, as some folks have wondered whether the rumored "Blue" update to Windows 8, which could be out by summer 2013, would simply be Service Pack 1. I'd say the fact this Service Pack-like update is available now means Blue will definitely be more than "just" a bunch of fixes. I'd expect it to have new features, too.
So will there be a typical Windows 8 Service Pack 1 -- and when? No idea on either question.
Update: In other Windows 8 news, the promised updates to a number of Microsoft-developed "built-in" Windows 8 apps, including its SkyDrive, Mail, Messaging, Photos, Bing, Music, Games, Weather, etc., are also rolling in. Those with final Windows 8 bits installed can grab them from the Windows Store.