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Microsoft polishes Windows 2000 fixes

The software giant is putting the finishing touches on the third collection of Windows 2000 bug fixes, which is nearly ready for release.

Microsoft is putting the finishing touches on the third collection of Windows 2000 bug fixes, which is nearly ready for release after a protracted period of testing, sources said.

The update, Windows 2000 Service Pack 3, contains vital security updates and hundreds of fixes to bugs plaguing the operating system that Microsoft released in February 2000. Service Pack 3 could be important for many businesses, as not all of the included security fixes are available as separate downloads.

But some businesses won't find this to be a light download, which weighs in for some installations at more than 150MB, according to the update's "Read Me" file. Service Pack 3 can be applied to Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Windows 2000 with Server Appliance Kit. The size of the update could change depending on the version of Windows and type of installation, such as single computer or network.

Microsoft would not give a specific release date for the service pack. "We remain on track to release this summer and we will ship when it is ready," said Jim Cullinan, Windows lead product manager.

Microsoft issued Service Pack 2, itself a hefty 101MB download, in May 2001. The Redmond, Wash.-based company released Service Pack 1 in July 2000.

The release of a first service pack is considered a watershed event for many larger companies, which typically wait for the fixes before moving to a new operating system. A third service pack would normally be part of the ongoing process of fixing bugs.

But with Windows 2000 Service Pack 3, Microsoft is expected to make many changes that could improve the overall of security of the operating system.

Microsoft started taking Windows 2000 security more seriously in January, after Chairman Bill Gates distributed a company-wide e-mail about putting security ahead of adding new features to products. Soon after, Microsoft issued a package of cumulative security fixes.

"There probably will be some important security stuff in there related to their security initiative," said IDC analyst Al Gillen.

But the repeated delays of Windows .Net Server, the successor to Windows 2000 Server, is another reason why this update will be important to many businesses.

"It's an important service pack, especially after such a long period of time; this hits the server as well as the desktop," said Gartner analyst Michael Silver. "Remember, there is no replacement on the server."

Microsoft now expects to release final, or gold, code to Windows .Net Server sometime before the end of the year, but many customers would likely not see the product before early 2003.

At the same time, many companies continue to move older Windows 95, 98 or NT systems to version 2000, even though Microsoft released successor XP in October. Gartner predicts that Windows 2000 PCs will easily outsell those with XP this year, respectively, 41 percent to 16 percent of new system sales.

For this reason, Gartner predicts Windows 2000 will be widely used much longer than Microsoft anticipates.

"End of life (for Windows 2000) is supposed to be first quarter 2004," Silver said. "We're predicting that Microsoft will extend that date for Windows 2000 Professional support."

As the release of Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 approaches, Microsoft is rapidly working to release the first collection of bug fixes for Windows XP. That service pack is slated for late-summer release and will introduce many changes to Windows XP.

Besides bug fixes and security updates, Windows XP Service Pack 1 will radically change how PC makers or consumers interact with so-called middleware, such as Web browsing or instant messaging technologies.

Microsoft is making these changes in accordance with an antitrust settlement cut with the Justice Department and nine of 18 states. Final status of the November agreement is pending, awaiting final word by a federal judge in Washington.

On Monday, Microsoft pulled its version of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) from a download site. The company plans to restore its version of the JVM, which competes with newer versions available from Java inventor Sun Microsystems, to Windows XP with the release of Service Pack 1.

Gillen said he expects to see some middleware and other changes to Windows 2000, also in response to the antitrust settlement.

"I know they have to do some stuff on the client, but I don't know if they will do anything on the server. That is a possibility, because they have to expose the client-server protocols," he said.