Microsoft may only have just officially unveiled Windows 8, but not everyone is focussing their attentions on the forthcoming iteration of the Windows operating system. For some, the next service pack for Windows 7 is where their attentions lie. And the big question that everyone is asking, is when will Windows 7 Service Pack 2 be made available?

Speculation about the release date for SP2 began at the start of 2010. A report by Softpedia in January last year said Russian site Wzor claimed Microsoft was to begin work on SP2, a month after SP1 was released. At the time, the report slated SP1 to be made available in November 2010 meaning work on the service pack should have begun in October 2010. However, while Microsoft first announced Windows 7 SP1 in March 2010, the public beta wasn't made available until July and it took until February this year for the final version of the service pack to be made available to PC users.

Then at the start of this year, Wzor said Windows 7 Service Pack 2 has been "under heavy development since late 2010" and claimed the release date now the SP2 was now slated for mid-2012 and would be released an update for Windows Server 2008.

Microsoft believes that it should ship a new version of Windows every two to three years, while service packs should be released ever 12 to 18 months. Windows 7 Service Pack 1 was made available 16 months after the launch of the operating system, so in theory Service Pack 2 should be released between February and July next year. Furthermore, in the case of Windows Vista, Microsoft made sure Service Pack 2 was released five months before the next iteration of the Windows operating system. Microsoft has previously said Windows 7 will be released sometime during 2012, but has remained silent on exactly when. However, if a new version of Windows is released every three years then we should see Windows 8 hitting the shelves by October 2012. This could mean Windows 7 Service Pack 2 will be released in May 2012.

What will Service Pack 2 contain?

While in the past, service packs have offered significant upgrades to the Windows operating system, it wasn't the case for Windows 7. Essentially Windows 7 SP1 did not bring any new features to the operating system. Instead, it comprised a collection of security patches and non-security fixes, that Microsoft called "minor fixes" that had already been issued via Windows Update. However, it did include an updated Remote Desktop client designed to work with RemoteFX, a new technology that debuted with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, which also shipped at the same time. RemoteFX improves the graphics performance of Windows 7 virtual machines hosted on Server 2008 R2 SP1 systems. The service pack also supported 'Dynamic Memory', a feature in Server 2008 R2 SP1 that let IT staff adjust guest virtual machines' memory on the fly.

Whether SP2 will simply offer a collection of hotfix or bring major new features to Windows 7 remains to be seen. However, some are speculating  that SP2 will add support for USB 3.0 and Intel's LightPeak dual-channel technology that was officially announced in February this year and offers the ability to transfer data between devices such as PCs and displays or storage at speeds of up to 10Gbps.