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Microsoft's XP SP2 Arrives - InternetNews.
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Microsoft's XP SP2 Arrives

UPDATED: Early this afternoon, Microsoft announced the release to manufacturing of Service Pack 2 with Advanced Security Technologies, the company's long-awaited security upgrade to Windows XP. It's been a long, hard slog for Microsoft, and now it's time for customers to feel the pain.

Analysts say that customers must expect some drama when they install the service pack, which makes changes to the operating system itself.

"This is necessary. But it will be a little bit surprising if there isn't at least a minor backlash from consumers," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with RedMonk.

Peter O'Kelly, a Burton Group analyst, said, "Unlike other similar updates, this will break applications. Microsoft knows that and warned people, and there's nothing they can do about it. Some applications were built with the expectation that it's okay to drive around the Internet with your windows down."

The free security-centric service pack rolls the plethora of recent security patches into a bundle, establishes strong default security settings and adds new protection features to help safeguard computers from hackers, viruses and other security risks.

"Service Pack 2 is a significant step in delivering on our goal to help customers make their PCs better isolated and more resilient in the face of increasingly sophisticated attacks," Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft, said in a statement.

But Microsoft has warned ISVs and enterprise customers for months that some applications will break. It released technical previews so that customers and partners could test their own code against it, yet just this week, it warned that the service pack will break its own CRM 1.2 product.

It will take some education, O'Kelly said, before people understand that some of the software they have just won't work any more. More important, they need to understand that it's an acceptable trade-off.

Redmond will take a multi-channel approach to disseminating the code, including promoting it as a download and offering it on free CDs. Customers who have turned on the Automatic Update feature in the operating system will be prompted that it's available.

Approximately 100 million customers will receive the Automatic Update notification. Exactly when they get the prompt will depend on the customer's Internet usage, location, language and the level of Internet demand for Service Pack 2, because Automatic Updates uses spare Internet capacity to progressively download updates without interfering with daily PC use.

During the rollout, Microsoft will provide the update in 25 languages.

Microsoft warned businesses that they should be evaluating Service Pack 2 now and deploy it on their most critical systems as soon as it is practical.

"This will be a very difficult upgrade for many people," O'Grady said, "but you have to give Microsoft credit here. They're biting the bullet and doing what is right, whether customers recognize it or not."

Service Pack 2 establishes stronger default security settings and tools designed to help users manage their security settings via the Windows Security Center. The service pack includes drivers and updates supporting Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Redmond collaborated with ISVs and partners, including Symantec, AMD and Intel. It's rushing the code to PC makers in hopes of shipping it pre-loaded on machines beginning in September and October.

Although Microsoft refused to announce a ship date, the XP SP2 release has been rumored for months. Earlier today, news outlets reported that the service pack would be delayed anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

"It's become a spectator sport," O'Kelly said. "I think they had a go/no-go decision to make. They tested the waters, and said, 'Go.'"

The release is wise, O'Kelly said. "People are basing big decisions on this. There are probably a lot of companies who have frozen decisions on whether to go with Windows, because they're so nervous about security."

The effort to fix security problems in Windows has cost Microsoft plenty, he added. Redmond pulled developers off work on Longhorn, the next generation of the Windows operating system, to focus on SP 2.

"The stakes for Microsoft were huge," O'Kelly said. "These are not choices they're making lightly."