The Windows 2000 SP1, as the service pack is known, will be delivered to testers next week, according to an email sent to the beta group this week. Microsoft, which has not yet announced the release date for SP1, declined to comment on the release.
Microsoft will make the service pack available sometime next week on the Windows Update Web site, according to Paul Thurrott, editor of the WinInfo email newsletter.
Microsoft does not announce release dates for many of its software and operating system releases and updates because the beta testing process can be so unpredictable. If the testing group discovers new bugs, or problems with the fixes themselves, the release can be pushed back.
The first Windows 2000 service pack will fix myriad bugs, but Microsoft isn't saying which. "We can't discuss the specifics of what's in the service pack," a representative said.
Microsoft and other major software companies regularly issue service packs after major software releases. But the Windows 2000 version takes on special significance because many analysts and corporations expressed reservations about upgrading large organizations to Windows 2000 until the first bugs were fixed.
Windows 2000, which was the company's most ambitious software development project in its history, is a high-end operating system designed for large companies as well as e-commerce and other Web sites. The OS provides increased support for new hardware and is thought to be more reliable and stable than Windows NT, its predecessor.
Despite the benefits, undertaking such a major overhaul puts large companies through enormous expenses and considerable risks in the event that a major bug is discovered after installation, which is why most of the information technology departments at these companies tend to be conservative about upgrades.
Before the launch of Windows 2000, market research and consulting firm Gartner recommended that large and medium-sized companies wait to upgrade until the first service pack is released.
The market researcher predicted that by year's end, only 15 to 20 percent of customers now using Windows 95, 98 or NT will upgrade or purchase Windows 2000 Professional replacement systems. That number is expected to reach as high as 45 percent by the end of 2001, as companies gain confidence in the reliability of the OS.
Last month at PC Expo, Microsoft announced that Gartner would be adopting Windows 2000 for its notebook PCs.