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Service Pack 3? Maybe Next Year

Microsoft Corp. is pushing back its timetable for releasing the next bundle of security fixes and tweaks or "service pack" for Windows XP users until sometime in the latter half of 2007 in order to concentrate on development work for Windows Vista, the long-promised next new version of its flagship operating system.

A week ago Microsoft released its 54th Windows XP patch since Service Pack 2 was issued in August 2004. At the time I asked a Microsoft spokesperson when we could expect to see the third service pack to help XP users who have to get up to date on older machines with dial-up Internet connections, or who -- for a variety of reasons usually having to do with spyware or virus infestations -- are forced to reinstall the operating system, along with dozens of patches.

I didn't get a response, and forgot I had even asked the question. That is, until today -- when I spotted a short article that said Microsoft would be delaying Service Pack 3 for XP until sometime in 2007, less than a year after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that SP3 would come out before Windows Vista shipped (Redmond was codenaming it "Longhorn" at the time).

I received an e-mail today after another query to Microsoft on this issue. A spokesperson for the company confirmed that Microsoft has swapped priorities and that it is "tentatively targeting the second half of 2007" for SP3's release. "However, right now our priority is Windows Vista -- we'll have more information ... after Windows Vista ships." 

I think that's unfortunate. If the idea is to roll some of the protections being developed for Vista into the service pack, then say so. Otherwise, delaying the service pack only increases the likelihood that more users will not fully patch their PCs.

That is, of course, just my opinion, but take a look at the reality right now for Windows XP users if you don't yet share my view. Microsoft has released 54 patches that fix problems specific to Windows XP since SP2. That's three more than the number of updates it bundled into SP2, and 21 more than the number of security-related updates rolled into Service Pack 1.

At the rate Microsoft releases updates -- about three per month -- if it waits another 18 months to issue patches (which would be the most optimistic reading of the "second half of 2007") XP users starting from a base of SP2 would have to install roughly 108 different patches to bring their machines up to date.

Just last week I reinstalled a fresh copy of Windows XP with SP2 included and it took more than 78 minutes to download and install all of the available updates (granted, that included some Microsoft Office security updates) on a high-speed connection. A year and a half from now, with 108 patches to download (plus any needed Office patches), that process that could take well in excess of two hours for high-speed users, and heaven only knows how many hours for dial-up users.

By Brian Krebs  |  January 18, 2006; 7:50 AM ET
Categories:  New Patches  
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