According to Microsoft Corp., a certain subset of users—those who do not power down their Tablet PCs every day or every other day—have found that memory can "leak" through the stylus, causing a degradation of system performance.
"In other words, the stylus sucks up all the juice, and when it gets bad enough, the operating system issues a GPF [General Protection Fault] that causes [the system to] crash, boom, and you have to reboot," said Yankee Group Research Inc. senior analyst Laura DiDio.
A Microsoft spokesperson said that the leak is OS-based and that it is not particular to any specific form factor within the Tablet PC realm. The patch is available to all registered users of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005.
At the same time, Microsoft calls the patch a hotfix that may receive additional testing and recommends that users who are not severely impacted by this issue wait for the upcoming Windows XP Service Pack due out on August 9 rather than download the patch at this time.
DiDio said that Microsoft has known about the memory problem for several months, and lauded Microsoft for both making the fix available and for informing its customers that they should wait to apply it unless they are having a problem with the leak.
Jupiter Research Senior Analyst Joe Wilcox said the new patch fixes a longstanding problem. For his part, however, he said he found it interesting that Microsoft released the update under its Windows Genuine Advantage program.
"I find that strange, because Tablet PC software only ships on Tablet PCs, which should greatly negate any piracy risk. Microsoft has indicated that users would still be able to get security updates once Windows Genuine Advantage validation is required, which it isnt, so Im surprised to see WGA applying to a functional operating system update, even if not directly security related," Wilcox said.
DiDio called the WPA requirement a nuisance for those affected by it, but said that its main purpose is to make sure that anyone who downloads a Windows update in fact has a legal copy of the operating system.
"Its an extra step, but its something [Microsoft has] to do," DiDio said.