Is Microsofts Pipeline Officially Unblocked?

Opinion: Windows XP SP2 is out. So, does this mean we can count on ship dates, instead of slip dates, from here on out? No way.

Microsofts top brass has become fond of saying that Microsofts got a lot of innovative new products in the pipeline. But what they havent admitted is that their "pipeline" has been in serious need of some Roto-Rooting for more than a year.

In recent months, whenever Microsoft was running late with a product, officials blamed Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and/or tougher internal security criteria in general. So, now that SP2 is officially out (it was released to manufacturing Aug. 6), can we expect the slip-date blame game to become a thing of the past? Hardly.

First off, while Microsoft is done developing and testing the SP2 bits, the Windows team is still quite consumed by the massive task of getting the upgrade into the hands of the estimated 300 million XP users out there. This week, users of the Home Edition are slated to have XP SP2 pushed to their desktops.

Next week, it will be the Standard Edition users (at least those who havent applied Microsofts blocking tool to temporarily halt the automatic downloads) who will get the code via Windows Update and Automatic Update.

Then theres the pesky matter of SP2 application-compatibility with which Redmond needs to contend. Microsoft has been warning folks in every step of the SP2 beta process to test their apps for SP2 compatibility. But it turns out that there are lots of apps that require tweaking.

Microsoft has identified 50 apps that "seem to stop working" once SP2 is installed—as well as 200 apps (some of which are also on the first list) that "may behave differently" once SP2 is installed. The list of 200 runs the gamut from instant-messaging software to enterprise backup programs to games.

(We asked Microsoft for clarification on exactly what was meant by "may behave differently." No response.)

If you wade through the lists of applications that are encountering SP2 hiccups, quite a few are from Microsoft itself. If Microsoft couldnt find a way to make sure its own applications—apps including, but not limited to, MSN, Office XP, SQL Server 2000, Visual Studio .Net 2003, Systems Management Server 2003 BizTalk Server 2004 and Microsoft CRM 1.2—arent all patched and ready to work with SP2, is it any surprise that many third-party apps dont work right, either?

After all, Microsoft began rolling out SP2 throughout the company in stages starting months ago. Yet some Microsoft product teams dont seem to know for certain whether their apps work correctly with SP2. What gives?

Weve already begun to see other Microsoft product ship schedules slipping. The Redmondians are attributing several of these slips to SP2.

Service Pack 1 for Windows Server 2003? Slipped to mid-2005 as a result of SP2 delays. The new 64-bit Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 releases? Ditto. It sounds like the delay in Windows Server 2003 SP1 is already pushing the R2 release of Windows Server into 2006.

And Windows Update Services—the patching product formerly known as Software Update Services—and Microsoft Update patching systems? Both are delayed until mid-2005 due to (you guessed it) SP2 delays, according to Microsoft.

/zimages/4/28571.gifMicrosoft has updated its 64-bit Windows XP preview editions. Click here to read more.

We agree that Microsoft has some cool products in the pipeline. But the pipeline is so blocked up right now that its unclear when any of them will be ready to flow into the commercial market. Got any ideas as to where Microsoft can find the silver-handled plunger that will get things running smoothly again?

Talk back below. Or write me at with your best plumbing suggestions.

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