IBM goes slow on XP update

As Microsoft ships Service Pack 2 to manufacturing, Big Blue tells employees to not install the software, pending compatibility tests.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read
Microsoft says that the code for its update to the Windows XP operating system is finally ready. But IBM's internal technology department disagrees.

On Friday Microsoft released Service Pack 2 to PC manufacturers after a number of delays. That means it will be available to customers before the end of the month.

The business end of SP2
For enterprises, mass deployment
of the Windows XP service pack
isn't a practical reality, Forrester says.

But IBM last week told employees to hold off installing SP2 until Big Blue can fully test and customize it. The company's technology department said the delay is "due to known application problems and incompatibility with IBM workstation applications."

Along with various bug fixes, SP2 adds a new "security center" that is intended to provide a beefed-up firewall as well as easy ways to tell whether a PC is updated and protected against viruses. In addition, SP2 includes a pop-up blocker in the Internet Explorer browser and updated support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technologies.

In the memo to employees, seen by CNET News.com, IBM's internal technology department stated that Windows XP SP2 will "change the behavior of Internet Explorer and cause some application incompatibilities." The memo also noted that some "high-profile, business-critical applications are also known to conflict with SP2."

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IBM's Global Services consulting arm, which works with many companies to design and build information systems, has not yet issued any recommendations to its customers.

One IBM employee in the company's internal technology department characterized the decision as routine. The person said that IBM will need to test and customize the new version of Windows before installing it throughout the company. Big Blue's internal technology department maintains about 380,000 desktop PCs.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has described SP2 as the most extensive free update to Windows ever, and executives have acknowledged that work on the update has delayed other projects, including Longhorn, the next major version of Windows.

The update should be distributed to approximately 100 million PCs through automatic updates during the next two months, Microsoft said. Customers who choose to download manually will be able to do so by the end of August.

While some businesses, such as IBM, are deciding to test the update throroughly before installing it, consumers buying new PCs are likely to get SP2 soon. Microsoft said it is working with computer manufacturers to get them to start using SP2 as soon as possible.

The company had planned internally to release the software earlier last week but pushed it out to fix some unspecified quality issues.

Last week, Microsoft warned that customers using Microsoft Business Solutions CRM Sales for Outlook 1.2 will encounter problems with the software if they install SP2. Microsoft posted a patch to its Web site that it says fixes the problem.