Microsoft Taking Its Time With Next Service Pack

The last time Microsoft introduced a security service pack — Windows Service Pack 2 in mid-2004 — the market could hardly wait. Viruses, worms and other Internet malware were disrupting companies’ and individuals’ computer use on a regular basis.

When Microsoft finally unveiled the long-awaited fix, implementation problems, holes in the application and other flaws ground computer operations to a halt.

That may be why Microsoft is taking its time this time around. According to a posting on its Web site, Microsoft is scheduling its next service pack to be released in the second half of 2007.

The reason given is that Microsoft wants to devote its resources to finalizing work on its upcoming flagship operating system, Windows Vista, which is scheduled for release during the second half of this year.

However, some computer security executives speculate — or rather, hope — that Microsoft is putting off the release in order to ensure there are no major glitches in the software.

A Good System

Over the last few years, Microsoft has vastly improved its system for getting out security patches and other updates, Graham Cluley, Senior Technology Consultant for Sophos told TechNewsWorld.

“They have a good system for rolling those out. A new service pack would include new features and functionality that would no doubt prove to be very useful,” he said, “but it is not necessarily essential for most users to have at this point.”

Users who have installed SP2 have noticed a definite improvement in security, he said, “so it’s not as though people are screaming out for another service pack.”

What is paramount is that the service pack works correctly and that it automatically syncs with other applications, Cluley emphasized.

“Better for it to be right than for it to be early,” he remarked.

New Firewall, Anti-Virus Software

More-robust firewall software, along with further advanced anti-virus capabilities, would be beneficial, Cluley said. Right now, most consumers rely on third-party firewalls for protection, a situation that can leave systems vulnerable to glitches or security holes.

“I am also curious to see whether Microsoft will release its own anti-virus software with the service pack,” Cluley said.

This is the year Microsoft has said it will enter the anti-virus market — the only question is how and when. It could be as part of the service pack, although that is most unlikely, in Cluley’s view.

“It will probably be as a stand-alone release or maybe part of Vista,” he speculated. Releasing an AV application as a stand-alone product would likely shelter Microsoft from being accused of anti-competitive maneuvers.

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