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Windows 2000 SP3 in Release Candidate Stage

For those of you anxiously awaiting Windows 2000 Service Pack 3, the suspense should soon be over.

Microsoft reports that the service pack is in the Release Candidate 1 stage with availability scheduled for "this summer." Unconfirmed reports have the service pack coming as soon as July.

Officials in Redmond aren't saying much about the service pack publicly, except to note one interesting addition:
"Windows 2000 SP3 will include the changes required by the consent decree with the DOJ and nine states," a Microsoft spokesman said.

The consent decree, which hasn't been formally accepted by a federal judge and could be obsolete if the non-settling states win their case, calls for the first Windows XP service pack to make it possible for computer makers and users to hide Microsoft middleware and select third-party versions instead. The antitrust case grew out of the Internet Explorer-Netscape Navigator war, but the proposed solution has come to include alternatives to Windows Media Player, Outlook Express and Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine, among other middleware components.

The functionality in Windows 2000 SP3 would apparently be similar to what was included in the beta version of Windows XP Service Pack 1, which includes a new Start Menu and Add/Remove Programs option where users can set program options and defaults.

Third-party companies such as RealNetworks and AOL-Netscape will need to release new versions of their middleware applications that publish themselves to the Microsoft middleware selection wizard.

The consent decree feature continues a tradition of adding a significant new feature via service packs with Windows 2000. SP2 brought an irreversible change from 56-bit encryption to 128-bit encryption.

Service Packs are primarily supposed to be well-tested collections of security, compatibility and reliability enhancements and early word is that SP3's array of patches is enormous.

It has been more than a year since the May 16, 2001 release of Service Pack 2, which included 366 fixes. Since then, Microsoft initiated two huge security pushes, first the Strategic Technology Protection Program followed by the Trustworthy Computing initiative, which called for code reviews. Microsoft has issued scads of security patches for Windows 2000, including 43 fixes in the Windows 2000 Security Rollup Package 1 made available in January.

Some leaked bug fix lists posted on the Web have as many as 800 fixes in SP3, although it is unclear if all of those are new fixes or if they come on top of the SP1 and SP2 fixes.

A huge SP3 would make sense from more than a security perspective. Relatively few organizations deployed Windows 2000 prior to Service Pack 1 and widespread deployments were relatively rare leading up to SP2. With corporate rollouts really getting rolling in 2001, a much broader set of users has had an opportunity to encounter and report real-world problems than ever before.

Meanwhile, SP3 does not carry the burden its Windows NT 4.0 predecessor did. Windows NT 4.0 was plagued by serious reliability problems that were in some cases exacerbated by Windows NT 4.0 SP2. Windows NT 4.0 only began to gain reliability with the third service pack. Reliability increased with every subsequent service pack until with Service Pack 5 many users and analysts began to say that Windows NT 4.0's reliability issues appeared to be a thing of the past.

Windows 2000, by contrast, has enjoyed a solid reputation for stability since its February 2000 release.

Windows 2000 Service Pack History:

  • Windows 2000 was released February 17, 2000.
  • Service Pack 1 shipped July 31, 2000 with 250 fixes.
  • Service Pack 2 became available May 16, 2001 with 366 fixes.
  • Security Rollup Package 1 was posted to the Web Jan. 30, 2002 with 43 fixes.

  • About the Author

    Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.