March 04, 2008, 10:30 AM — Windows XP has more lives than your average cat. Hard as Microsoft tries to kill XP, it's the operating systems that just won't die. It's possible to buy a new PC with XP installed, fully 15 months after the worldwide launch of Vista. Lots of individuals and organizations won't go near Vista, not because of the expense it costs to upgrade, but out of naked fear that whatever off-the-shelf or custom applications they use will cease to function.
Our friends at Microsoft are masters at repudiating that which came before. Windows 3.1 was much better than 3.0. Windows 95 did all the things that 3.1 couldn't do. Same for Windows 98. On Oct. 25, 2001, little more than a month after 9/11, Bill Gates, Rudi Giuliani, and even Regis Philbin stood onstage in New York and told us that XP, the most secure operating system ever built, rendered everything before it obsolete. As for Vista, which launched in January 2007, its advantages today seem less clear cut.
If you can't kill XP, you might as well modernize it. Thus, we are about to beget Service Pack 3 for Windows XP. One of the things this service pack does is roll up the 100+ updates and patches issued since the Aug. 2004 launch of SP2 into a single, comprehensive cumulative update. For XP systems that haven't been updated regularly, this will be a good thing. The more significant benefit is an easy way to bring up to date the zillions (well, maybe not quite that many) XP systems that are being snapped up due to a widespread and acute aversion to Windows Vista. SP3 will install on any x86 version of XP: original, SP1, SP2, or systems that have had only selected patches applied. It does not support x64 editions.
In what you might consider a mild surprise, Microsoft has actually added some new under-the-hood features, perhaps an acknowledgement that XP still has plenty of life left. These new features include:
-- Improvements to black hole router detection (routers that are silently discarding packets). It will be on by default.
-- Network Access Protection (NAP), a feature introduced in Windows Vista. NAP allows better protection of network assets by enforcing compliance with system health requirements.