Analyst: No effect from tardy XP service pack

Microsoft's plan to release a third service pack for Windows XP later than expected should not have much effect on Vista sales, an IDC analyst says.

Microsoft's plan to release a third service pack for Windows XP later than expected should not have much effect on sales of Windows Vista, the company's upcoming desktop upgrade, according to a market analyst.

Service Pack 3 for XP is due in the second half of 2007, according to the company's service pack road map on its Web site. It's doubtful the release of Service Pack 3 has been changed so as to not interfere with the launch of Vista, wrote Al Gillen, research director for system software at IDC.

"There is a huge installed base of customers (over 400 million) using Windows XP, and Microsoft would gain nothing by causing pain or concern among those customers to somehow manipulate their adoption plans for Windows Vista," Gillen wrote in an e-mail response to a query.

By the time Windows Vista is launched -- due for later this year -- around 525 million users will be using XP, and the OS will be in use for years to come, Gillen wrote. "Of course, Microsoft would love to see customers move quickly to a new product, but that is not how adoption curves happen in the industry."

Users shouldn't be alarmed as they can utilize Microsoft's automated update services to get patches and fixes, Gillen wrote. Those patches decrease the need for service packs. Since hotfixes and patches are issued frequently, service packs quickly become dated, Gillen wrote.

In the long term, service packs may be used more as a method to transfer a large number of updates to a system being configured or reconfigured to a particular level rather than downloading hundreds of patches, Gillen wrote.

The later release of the service pack won't affect mainstream support, as Microsoft bases that on the release date of a product or a replacement product, he wrote. Mainstream support for XP will continue for two years beyond XP.

Last October, the creator of a Web site that closely monitors Microsoft created a stir in October by releasing what was billed as an unofficial preview of Service Pack 3. Ethan Allen, who runs the The Hotfix (www.thehotfix.net), said at that time he received updates from a source at Microsoft.

Company officials, however, advised against installing the package, cautioning it could harm a computer.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service

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