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Win2K SP3, XP SP1 Share Settlement Changes

Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and Windows XP SP 1 share a key element—changes to comply with Microsoft’s antitrust settlement with the Department of Justice.

Microsoft released Win2K SP3 in early August. The oft-delayed bundle of regression-tested bug fixes is the first Win2K SP so far that Microsoft recommendeds users install.

SPs generally become more valuable with age because each includes previous fixes, plus fixes based on the feedback of an increasing volume of users. While the number of Win2K deployments was limited when SP1 was released in August 2000 and Win2K-uptake remained somewhat slow at the SP2 release in May 2001, a much larger base of users has gotten a chance to rattle the OS and report back to Redmond.

As of press time, XP SP1 was slated for release sometime between Aug. 28 and the end of September, according to Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith.

Like SP3 for Win2K, SP1 for XP is strategically important. While most potential XP Home Edition customers don’t know what “SP” means, many potential XP Professional corporate customers view SP1 availability as the real release date for a Microsoft operating system.

Both SPs include the usual laundry list of bug fixes, including significant security problems uncovered through the Trustworthy Computing security review earlier this year.

But the most interesting changes involve a clause in the settlement agreement with the Department of Justice and the nine settling states requiring Microsoft to give OEMs and users a way to remove five pieces of Microsoft “middleware”—Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Windows Messenger, Microsoft Java Virtual Machine and Outlook Express. The clause applies to Win2K Professional and XP. The settlement was still pending when Win2K SP3 shipped, but the agreement requires the changes even prior to a court stamp of approval.

In the SPs, Microsoft interpreted the clause to mean it must hide icons and program menu references to middleware rather than yanking the code. Microsoft’s controversial argument holds that removing the middleware would break third-party software.

The implementation comes in two forms, one for end users and one for computer manufacturers. On the user side, Microsoft created a new tool called “Set Program Access and Defaults” that allows users to hide the middleware. The other tool allows OEMs, such as Dell, HP and IBM, to pick and choose among such middleware options when packaging Windows on computers.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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