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Warts and all, Windows XP SP2 is finally here, but has its arrival gotten users of older versions of Windows finally ready to upgrade? We put that question to Microsoft, an analyst and resellers, and here’s what we found.

First, a Microsoft representative downplayed the importance of SP2 in getting users to migrate from older desktop Windows such as the no-longer-supported Windows NT Workstation, Windows 98, ME or 2000.

“First and foremost, the SP2 effort is designed to help existing customers be better protected against hackers, viruses and other security risks in an ever-changing security environment,” the representative said.

“It is not about selling new copies of Windows. That said, we do believe SP2 adds significant value to the product and may prompt some customers to upgrade.”

Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software research at IDC, said he agrees. “Our surveys indicate that organizations are in the process of retiring older systems as part of their standard hardware refresh cycle and, of course, the operating system installed on those systems.

“I don’t think that the incremental availability of Windows XP’s SP2 will change the pace of that process. IDC’s surveys indicate that the refresh cycle of hardware is guiding this change,” Kusnetzky said.

A Northern Virginia “beltway bandit” system integrator who focuses on the government market said he agrees that the refresh cycle isn’t all about the operating system. “People don’t update operating systems anymore. They update PCs,” he said, adding that, if anything, “all the incompatibilities and security concerns have turned people off from XP.”

“I have a couple of customers who use Citrix MetaFrame,” he said. “We’ve been having issues getting it to work properly for them with SP2, and they’ve decided to switch off Automatic Updating on their boxes to make sure they don’t ‘downgrade’ to SP2 until they’re squared away.

“They mostly run Windows 2000, and now they want to know if they can keep it when they get new desktops at the beginning of the next fiscal year.”

But Brittanie Ngo, a Microsoft product specialist at Ingram Micro Inc., is much more gung-ho about SP2’s possible effects on the channel and on XP’s adoption rate.

“The numerous new features that SP2 offers, from security to wireless support, teamed with the marketing efforts supporting SP2, will help fuel interest and adoption among our resellers,” Ngo said.

“Once awareness hits the mainstream consumer and business space and users see the ties between their feedback and the new features within SP2, such as making the computing experience more secure and productive, we expect the market to respond with a notable spike in both interest and adoption,” she said.

“Since its inception, migration to Windows XP has been significant and will continue to gain momentum as Win 98 and ME users eagerly anticipate its enhanced features,” Ngo said. “As for hardware, Windows XP2 takes greater advantage of memory allocation technologies, and with systems continually increasing in RAM and processor speed, [XP SP2 will] help drive overall system performance and caters to those who want to make the most of their hardware upgrades.”

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