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Microsoft RTMs Windows XP SP1

Microsoft Corp. last week released to manufacturing (RTM) its long-awaited Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 1. Microsoft says that it will make XP SP1 available to PC manufacturers and to premier customers over the next few days.

Most customers must wait until September 9th to obtain XP SP1, however. That’s when the software giant plans to make the service pack update officially available for public consumption.

Microsoft periodically releases software updates – called service packs – to consolidate bug fixes, which are issued individually as hotfixes, and to introduce new features and support for new devices.

True to form, XP SP1 consolidates a lot of hotfixes, but also introduces several new features in revamped USB 2.0 support and new support for Microsoft’s .NET Framework, which was available previously as an optional download from Microsoft’s Web site.

As a consequence of Microsoft’s settlement agreement with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), SP1 bundles a new utility for configuring Windows XP’s default “middleware” applications. In the context of its landmark anti-trust trial against the DOJ, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser was defined as a “middleware” application.

The new middleware utility lets customers choose from among four middleware configuration settings: “Computer Manufacturer Configuration,” “Microsoft Windows,” “Non-Microsoft” and “Custom.” Microsoft first made a version of the new middleware configuration utility available to customers as part of its Windows 2000 SP3 release last month.

According to Rob Enderle, a senior fellow with consultancy Giga Information Group, the new middleware configuration utility is XP SP-1’s most important new feature. That said, Enderle predicts, it probably won’t be exploited by most enterprise IT organizations.

“The big thing is the portion that was put in there to address the Department of Justice settlement agreement,” he comments. “But that’s not so much for corporate users. They already have their preferred software distributions – a lot of them have images that they just install on every new system – so I can’t see this being of much use [to them].”

Giga’s Enderle says that SP1 could prove to be a double-edged sword for Microsoft in terms of Windows XP uptick. On the one hand, he allows, a lot of IT organizations make it a practice to wait until Microsoft releases an operating system’s first service pack before they adopt it broadly.

“A lot of times, companies hold off deployments, so they can deploy with the first service release. So there is a percentage of folks who are definitely waiting for that,” he speculates.

On the other hand, he notes, “a lot of folks like to take a wait and see attitude with updates like this, especially from Microsoft.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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