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Ordinarily this headline would no longer come as any surprise, after all everyone is pretty much used to Microsoft keeping the competition at bay using whatever methods it can. However, this is no ordinary headline because what IO left out is the name of that competitor: Windows XP.

In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is quoted as saying that the number one competitor to Vista “is Windows XP Service Pack 2, there are a lot of happy users” and continues by admitting “the fact that people are generally happy is a certainly a barrier to as rapid adoption as we might like to see.” Now forgive me for my journalistic world weary cynicism, but this admission and the fact that Microsoft has delayed the release of Windows XP Service Pack 3 until at least the first half of 2008 might not be unconnected.

Certainly Microsoft isn’t making a fuss about the SP3 delays, the news being sneaked out in an update to the service pack roadmap without any of the usual press release hoo-ha. You might have expected otherwise, seeing as this will represent the first major upgrade since XP SP2 way back in August 2004.

Of course, if punters were aware that the OS they are, by Ballmer’s own admission, already happy with is due for a major overhaul they might think even harder before being persuaded to accept the ‘more secure’ upgrade to Vista promise. And let’s not forget what happened with Windows 2000, and the promised SP5 that ended up disappearing into the ether, replaced with a final update rollup of previously released patches. The real fear for many system admins is that the same will happen with XP SP3, delays will mount up and eventually Microsoft will announce is to be dropped altogether. Thankfully, at least it’s not too hard for those admins to create slipstream CDs to keep on top of the security patches and fixes, in lieu of a proper service pack.

But by creating a deliberate inconvenience for paying customers, and a service pack release is really nothing more than convenience, I think Microsoft is shooting itself in the foot. It isn’t going to persuade anyone that they have to upgrade to Vista, but it might just persuade a few to look at other platforms such as Linux and MacOS…

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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