TechNet subscribers rip Microsoft over XP SP3 'farce'

IT pros and developers blast Microsoft's decision to withhold the final version of XP SP3 until after public release

In a repeat of a February donnybrook over Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows Vista, IT professionals and developers are blasting Microsoft's decision to withhold the final version of Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) from them until after it's released to the public.

Subscribers to TechNet and Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), who pay hundreds annually to the Microsoft for the right to download software for testing and development purposes, called the move a "farce," a "slap in the face" and "ludicrous."

Monday, Microsoft announced that it had finished Windows XP SP3, the last major update for the six-and-a-half-year-old operating system, and said that it would post the upgrade on Windows Update and its own online download site next Tuesday, April 29.

But subscribers to the TechNet and MSDN services won't be able to obtain SP3 until sometime "within the next month," according to Chris Keroack, the service pack's release manager.

Another Microsoft employee, Nick MacKechnie, a senior technical account manager with the company's New Zealand operation, was more specific about dates. In a blog post yesterday, MacKechnie listed several dates in an SP3 timetable, including a May 2 release to TechNet and MSDN. The timetable has since been pulled from MacKechnie's blog.

The delay -- whether a month or several days -- did not sit well with some TechNet and MSDN subscribers. Many, in fact, brought up the February incident, when Microsoft first refused to let subscribers download Vista SP1. After pressure from users, it reversed that decision about two weeks later.

"This is the same garbage that was pulled initially with Vista SP1," said a user identified as Rick Dee in a message on the TechNet support site. "Are you trying to discourage people from subscribing to MSDN & Technet?"

"I'm not normally one to complain, but I can't believe that Microsoft is screwing over their paying subscribers again!" said Chris Mahoney. "Did [Microsoft] not learn anything from the Vista SP1 debacle?"

User after user weighed in, some sounding incredulous that Microsoft would publicly post SP3 before they could download and test it. "I literally cannot believe this!" said Tony Almeidaa, on the same thread as Dee and Mahoney. "We need to be able to test this out with our software and hardware before deploying to the whole network."

Almeidaa and others noted that the RTM build of SP3, identified as Build 5512 by Keroack, was date-stamped April 13. "The build strings says it was finished on 13 April, then it should have been released to msdn/technet people today," Almeidaa said.

TechNet and MSDN subscribers are not the only ones out in the cold. Another support site thread included messages from users who said their companies were volume licensing customers. "Windows XP SP3 not found in volume license site," reported a user identified as "Shibu_Chacko" Tuesday.

Monday's post by MacKechnie had pinpointed XP SP3 availability for volume license customers as June 1, more than a month from now.

That raised the hackles of at least one volume licensing customer, who went on to draw a direct connection between recent Microsoft behavior and a shift toward the Mac at his organization.

"Well, that's just damned ridiculous," said "Jacobyte666," who identified himself as a "disgruntled Volume License and TechNet Beta Plus subscriber."

"I really think [Microsoft] have 'jumped the shark' in the last year or so what with the Vista SP1 debacle and now this," added Jacobyte666. "I work at a large education site and we're seeing increasing numbers of Macs being used by IT support staff, teaching staff and students ... is it any wonder?"

Microsoft has not responded to questions about its Windows XP SP3 release schedule that were posed Monday and again Tuesday.

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Gregg Keizer

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