Microsoft SP2 Possibly Toughest Rollout Yet

With just as much hype and nearly as much code as a brand-newoperating system, the security-focused Service Pack 2 (SP2) update for Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system is now only days away, the company’s senior product manager Matt Pilla indicated this week.

Industry analysts have already remarked on the size of the update, a 200-plus-megabyte set of patches for Windows that has been delayed by the huge amount of testing required. Despite these efforts, the update will likely have adverse effects on other applications.

In what may be a sign of things to come, Microsoft warned this week that its customer relationship management (CRM) software will not work with SP2 and will require software workarounds.

SP2: New Windows?

Meta Group vice president Steve Kleynhans told TechNewsWorld that companies are likely to test and install the package out of concern for security. Kleynhans added, however, that some companies “may not turn on all of its capabilities,” particularly those features that duplicate pre-existing software such as firewalls.

Analysts agreed that the size and significance of SP2 render it as close to anew version of Windows as Microsoft could get while still calling it anupdate.

“The marketing around Service Pack 2 will be similar to what you’d see with a product change,” Kleynhans said. “Microsoft is not going to play it up as a package of fixes, but rather as an enhancement to what you’ve already got.”

Pointing to significant changes in architecture and the inclusion of some next-generation Windows “Longhorn” elements, Gartner research vice president Richard Stiennon said that many companies view SP2 as a new version of Windows.

“Enterprises are taking a wait and see approach,” Stiennon toldTechNewsWorld. “It’s going to go through a lot of the testing that a new version of Windows does.”

Customer Relations Beware

Microsoft hopes to avoid the many possible negative effects of the new service pack, whose default settings activate a firewall and pop-up blocking.

Kleynhans said that while the core of Windows is not changed,SP2 does affect “a broad cross-section of the components in the operatingsystem.”

The update could cause the types of problems associated with a new operating system. “This isn’t invisible,” Kleynhans said. “This isn’t slipping some patches in. This is something users will notice has changed.”

In addition to Microsoft’s warnings on the SP2 impact and its recentannouncement concerning CRM, there have been reports of major Web sites notworking with SP2-updated Windows, which is already out in beta form.

“A lot of help desks are going to get a lot of phone calls,” Kleynhans said.

SP2 ‘Tough Rollout’

Microsoft has not revealed exactly how it plans to roll out the newWindows XP update, but it will likely make it available first by download and later provide CDs.

Microsoft may mimic the strategy of AOL, which saturatesstores and news stands with its software. “I think it’s quite possible that you’re going to find [SP2] CDs all over the place,” Kleynhans said.

Regardless of the method, it will be a “tough rollout” for Microsoft, Stiennon said. He cited speculation that SP2 delays have been caused by newfound vulnerabilities in Windows XP.

“They’ve got to get this one right,” Stiennon said. “Otherwise, theconsequences could be pretty painful.”

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