More than three million users will be busy over the next 12 months downloading Microsoft's Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), which will be available in Australia on August 25.
SP2 is more than the usual roll out of bug fixes and updates with the release making significant changes to Windows to improve security of the operating system, which means plenty of testing for enterprise users.
Microsoft has also said that SP2 could break existing applications, so be warned. Moreover, the company released an update for Microsoft CRM 1.2 because SP2 prevented the application from running correctly.
Changes to Windows XP made by SP2 fall into four main areas: network protection, memory protection, e-mail security and browsing security. For example, the service pack will install and turn on the Windows Firewall, and Internet Explorer (IE) users will receive alerts when visiting Web sites that use potentially malicious ActiveX scripts.
Meta Group senior analyst technology research services, Brian Prentice believes that while many updates don't offer features that benefit most of their customers, Microsoft has created an update that will make a difference, describing the release as good news.
Microsoft Australia product marketing manager for Windows, Danny Beck, said SP2 represents increased security and more control when downloads become available locally later this month.
"This is not a date-driven release; it has been released when we were happy with it, and it was really important in this process to consider customer feedback," Beck said.
During the worldwide rollout of SP2, Microsoft will localise the software into 25 different languages, and distribute it to computer manufacturers, enterprise customers and consumers through downloads, retail distribution, free CDs and on new PCs.
According to Microsoft, the easiest way for current Windows XP users in Australia with broadband access to ensure they receive SP2 when it is released is to simply turn on the automatic update feature in Windows XP.
An SP2 CD will also be available free of charge from the Microsoft Web site, and the company is currently working closely with local retailers to provide SP2 in stores.
Microsoft is also working with computer manufacturers and local system builders to ensure they are able to make available PCs preloaded with SP2 as soon as possible.
"We encourage Windows users to spend five minutes to visit www.miscrosoft.com/protect in order to turn on automatic updates and ensure they will receive SP2 as it becomes available in Australia," Beck said.
Work on the XP update has caused the delay of several Microsoft products, including 64-bit editions of Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and the development of Longhorn, the next release of Windows.