Business Adoption Of Windows XP SP2 Still Low

The survey of 136,000 PCs at 251 companies in North America found that Windows XP SP2 had been deployed on only about 9% of those computers.

Modest uptake of SP2 might be expected in the broad context of Windows computing environments because many companies continue to use Windows 2000, Windows 98, and earlier versions of Microsoft's operating system. Yet, SP2 adoption was moderate even among companies that have deployed Windows XP, with only 24% of Windows XP machines upgraded to SP2 at the companies surveyed.

"To date, more companies are tending to hold back on SP2 than accept it as a standard," writes Steve O'Halloran, managing director of AssetMetrix Research Labs, in the report.

Microsoft released SP2 in September 2004 as a security-bolstering upgrade to Windows XP, which has been available since 2001, and the company has been encouraging consumers and businesses to download SP2 as a way of minimizing exposure to growing security threats. In business environments, SP2 adoption has lagged the consumer market, as IT departments test the upgrade for compatibility with existing applications. Microsoft last month released its Application Compatibility Toolkit 4.0 as a way of helping IT administrators address SP2-related upgrade issues.

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AssetMetrix divvies companies into those that have actively "accepted" SP2 by deploying it on 85% or more of their Windows XP PCs, or "embargoed" it by installing on 15% or fewer of their Windows XP systems. By that measure, only 7% of companies surveyed accepted SP2, while 40% avoided the upgrade. The rest, AssetMetrix concludes, "showed no direction or policy" towards SP2.

The degree to which companies are prepared for SP2 could come into play next week because Microsoft is expected to discontinue a blocking feature that makes it possible for companies to prevent the downloading of SP2 via Microsoft's Automatic Update service, according to AssetMetrix. The vendor warns that deadline could trigger a round of support calls to IT help desks as end users call with questions about their upgraded computers or broken applications.

AssetMetrix recommends companies prepare by establishing clear policies and guidelines where end users have control over their PC upgrades, which tend to be small businesses, and upgrading applications where necessary. Companies that decide to upgrade to SP2, AssetMetrix advises, should do so gradually before April 12 to reduce stress on support services and "productivity brown-outs" that could result if employees are upgraded simultaneously.