Final countdown looms for XP users on SP2 automatic update

Middle East users face having to accept Windows XP Service Pack 2 this week, whether they want it or not.

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By  Peter Branton Published  April 10, 2005

Middle East users face having to accept Windows XP Service Pack 2 this week, whether they want it or not. On April 12, the software giant’s Automatic Update service will begin delivering SP2 to firms registered with the serivce. Because of concerns over compatibility problems with some applications, Microsoft last year released a blocking tool which allowed organisations to delay the installation of SP2. They were able to continue using the Update service but were given a grace period from having to download SP2. On April 12, that grace period expires, a fact Microsoft has been at pains to point out on its web site. “Time is running out!” an advisory notice warns users on the SP2 section of the site. After the grace period has expired, Automatic Update will begin delivery of SP2 to all Windows XP users. Haider Salloum, Microsoft South Gulf marketing manager, confirmed earlier this year that the schedule will apply to businesses in the Middle East as much as anywhere else. “This applies to all businesses that have enabled the Automatic Update feature in their organisations,” he said. While SP2 has been heralded as providing important security advances for Windows XP users, there have been concerns about compatibility problems with some applications, leading analyst firms last year to recommend that firms hold off on adopting it until they had more time to complete testing, hence the initial grace period. A survey by Canadian research firm AssetMetrix Research Labs last week suggested that only 24% of North American companies running XP have so far downloaded SP2. Microsoft has not given figures as to how many users have downloaded SP2 in the region, but Salloum said last week that the company has sent out more than 30,000 free CDs containing the upgrade as part of a campaign to help users with slow internet connections. Microsoft has also announced that its first major update to its Windows Server operating system, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, is ready to go. It is designed to reduce the attack surface of the OS through stronger default settings and reduced server privileges. Service Pack 1 also features a built in firewall and a security configuration wizard, which reduces the attack surface by querying users about the role their servers fill, and then blocking ports and services that are not needed. The update will be available for download via Microsoft’s site soon, the vendor said. In the Middle East, sales of Server 2003 have been very strong, Microsoft claimed. “Microsoft Windows Server 2003 has been the fastest growing server we have released to date. Its adoption in the first six months was three times the adoption rate of Windows 2000 Server in its first six months,” said Rani El-Kik, server product manager Microsoft South Gulf.

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