The first public beta of service pack 1 (SP1) for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 is coming by end of July. Microsoft confirmed this bit of news at their TechEd conference in New Orleans, after first sharing some details of the update a couple months ago. Echoing previous statements, the company said SP1 will bring a couple of big additions on the server side of things, but for home users it's mostly the usual patches and hotfixes rolled up into a single update.
Among the new features in Windows Server 2008 R2 is a graphics acceleration platform known as RemoteFX, which can deliver high-definition video, the full Aero interface, and even high-end apps like AutoCAD to remote clients using a new codec that runs in hardware or software. This means graphics hardware on the server will be able to handle the graphics needs of multiple virtual guests, which in turn need only an low-end card and a virtual GPU driver. The result is something very close to an old mainframe environment, with "terminals" that are smarter than their predecessors but still less expensive than PCs, requiring far less maintenance and consuming very little power under load.
The other major addition to Server 2008 R2 is called "Dynamic Memory," which allows virtual machine memory to be configured on the fly as applications need it. No exact dates were given for the final release of SP1 on Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, but rumors has been circulating that it will be before the end of this calendar year.