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Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Microsoft prepares for XP SP2 hackers - and CD push

Most downloaded piece of Microsoft software ever goes hardcore.

For the nearly 71 per cent of the UK who still use dial-up internet connections, XP SP2 will soon be at hand without a long download. However, for users who think Microsoft will make XP harder to get into than Fort Knox with a rusty spoon, Microsoft isn't so sure.

While Microsoft has begun the lengthy process of feeding XP SP2 to users via its various online update services, it's counting on the first batch of CDs to carry the hard-copy service pack to appear sharpish.

A hard copy of SP2 is likely to be very popular among home users in particular. When Microsoft took the decision to send out a collection of several months' worth of security patches on a single CD, users clamoured for their copy. The reaction is expected to be overwhelming for XP SP2, with over one million CDs being prepped for SP2-hungry consumers.

The first CDs are expected to be available from next month, Paul Randle, Windows client manager, told The CDs will start to be released free with PC-focused magazines "throughout September", he said, but the precise dates will "depend on print schedules".

The rollout of SP2 has been hit by some delays as corporates are holding back on pushing it out to their users for fear it may not be compatible with home-grown apps.

Redmond's ambition knows no bounds on this issue, however: there are some heavy-hitting targets on the Microsoft boardroom table. The software behemoth is aiming to get the service pack to 100 million users though its Automatic Update service alone. The overall installation rate, however, is as yet an "internal target" - a secret currently known only to Gates and chums.

XP SP2 has already taken the title of the most downloaded piece of Microsoft software - there have been over a million corporate downloads of Release Candidate 1 alone, Randle said: "It's more than we've ever had for any other software product."

Recent reports of security holes being found in Microsoft's XP security bulwark have been dismissed as 'not able to be substantiated' by the software giant but that doesn't mean Redmond isn't prepared for the worst.

"It's impossible to secure an OS 100 per cent," said Randle. Does he expect to see tangible security holes in the future? "I hope not but I couldn't guarantee it? We live in the real world. We know there are people trying to have a go at SP2."


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