No Service Pack 3 Update for Windows XP?
SAN FRANCISCO -- With Microsoft now saying that its next major service pack for Windows XP will not ship until 2008, some Windows users are wondering whether the software upgrade will ever be released.
"The fear is Service Pack 3 will just get killed off," says Jeff Centimano, an IT consultant with Levi, Ray & Shoup, based in Kansas City, Missouri, who says that he's heard concerns from administrators since late last week, when Microsoft announced "preliminary" plans to ship SP3 in the first half of 2008, later than previously expected.
That puts the update within months of the early 2009 cutoff date for mainstream support for the XP operating system, and users like Centimano are now worried that Microsoft may not feel a Service Pack 3 is worth the effort.
"That's exactly how it worked out for Windows 2000," Centimano notes.
In late 2004, Microsoft scrapped a planned Service Pack 5 for Windows 2000 Server, electing instead to release an "update rollup" of security-related patches for the operating system.
Windows Administrators Unhappy
Windows XP administrators say that dropping Service Pack 3 would make their lives harder. "A service pack has been quality assurance-tested with all of the hot fixes together as one installation package," says Ethan Allen, a quality assurance official with a Seattle-based technology company. "If you were to take 500 hot fixes and install them one by one, eventually you might run into problems because they weren't all QA'd [quality assurance tested] as one package."
Microsoft bills its rollup releases as easier to install, but they don't include as many features as a full service pack, users say.
Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, agrees that Microsoft may very well decide to drop XP Service Pack 3. "It absolutely could happen. Microsoft is under no obligation to produce any service packs, ever," he explains. "They feel that because these fixes are available through the auto-update that there's less need to create a service pack."
Cherry believes, however, that now that Microsoft has mastered the art of releasing its security patches in a predictable, monthly cycle, it should consider releasing service packs on a regular basis--once a year, perhaps.
"The thing that I don't understand," he says, "is, on one hand, Microsoft seems to promote the concept that customers want predictable release cycles for operating systems, yet Microsoft also seems to say that customers don't care how random the release of a service pack is."
Through its public relations agency, Microsoft declined to allow its executives to be interviewed for this story.
Just Move On to Vista?
Others see a financial motive behind the delay. "They're going to let users kind of sit there without anything new on XP for a while, because they want you to move to Vista," says Allen, who also maintains the Hotfix.net Web site. Although the arrival of Windows Vista has been pushed into 2007, Microsoft today announced a Vista coupon upgrade program for those who buy XP-based systems between October 26 and March 15, 2007.
Allen, who published an early release of Service Pack 3 on his Web site last year, believes that Microsoft will ultimately release the software. But he says that the planned four-year gap between XP SP2 and SP3 is too long.
"Microsoft is trying to focus more on trying to make a bunch of money than on providing users with fixes for their systems," he says.