Will XP SP3 Slow Vista's Adoption?

Analysts say that the more secure, stable and reliable Windows XP is, the less reason businesses have to upgrade to Vista in a hurry.

The upcoming release of Windows XP Service Pack 3 will further slow the rate of business adoption of Windows Vista by extending the life of the older operating system, some analysts say.

Microsoft quietly released Windows XP Service Pack 3 Release Candidate 2 to the masses Feb. 19. But the company finds itself in a Catch-22, given its need to provide comprehensive security to protect its large installed base of business customers still running XP while, at the same time, encouraging those customers to upgrade to the new Vista operating system.

But the more secure, stable and reliable XP is, the less reason they have to upgrade in a hurry.

"XP SP3 does lengthen the useful life of XP. People don't like to move, particularly IT folks, and anything that makes it so they don't feel they have to move will be well received and delay that move," Rob Enderle, the principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told eWeek.

In addition, Windows XP is now on its third service patch and by any measure very mature, while Vista is only reaching its initial level of acceptable maturity with SP1, which is expected to be released in March, Enderle said.

Michael Cherry, the lead analyst for Windows at Directions on Microsoft agrees, saying that many customers are quite satisfied with Windows XP and that the release of a third service pack should only increase its stability and reliability.

"It also seems to run on older hardware-being less resource dependent than Vista is. Therefore it would appear many customers could be quite happy to stay with Windows XP for some time," he said.

XP SP3 will also make support easier, and it could be the delivery vehicle for some new features such as support for the Network Access Protection client that works with Windows Server 2008, Cherry said.

Microsoft declined to comment.

While Chris Swenson, the director of software industry analysis for the NPD Group does not agree that XP SP3 is likely to slow down the adoption of Vista, he does acknowledge that the many businesses with older PCs will roll out SP3.