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Windows XP SP3 Released for Download…NOT; well, Yes it Was…

XP SP3 WAS released, but got pulled; and then got released again.

I’ve been following this on and off, and it seems to me to be one of the MOST comical configuration and release management related issues I’ve bumped into in a long time. I should know, too. As a Software QA Director, I’ve been responsible not only for Test, but CM and RM as well.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see situations like the XP SP3 and Vista SP1 release issues we have (BTW, Vista SP1 is also on hold…AGAIN!) in small companies, but to see them in a retail giant like Microsoft is really bothersome…especially when the entire world runs their businesses on Microsoft software.

I noticed on BetaNews that they were headlining that XP SP3 was available for download via their FileForum. A little while later, I got some e-mail indicating that the SP had been pulled from Windows Update due to compatibility issues with Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System (RMS).  Microsoft has also halted Automatic Downloads of Vista SP1 for the same reasons. However, it’s still available via Windows Update and the Download Center.

The official word from MS is that this is for our own good, and that as soon as the issues are resolved, we can have the software back. The fix(es) are currently in Test, and should be available "soon."

Again, this on again-off again treatment is making me dizzier than the relationship that Cher used to have with Greg Allman (now if that doesn’t date me, I don’t know what will…). This is a huge problem from my perspective; and one that Microsoft should be doing a much better job at managing. Again, I would expect to see this type of behavior in a much less mature, much smaller company and not from one as large and mature as Microsoft.  Again, the entire world runs their businesses on some sort of MS platform. Not only is this inappropriate behavior from Microsoft, its making me ask all kinds of embarrassing questions:

Where did their testing process break down?
Was/Is it appropriate to expect MS to test these kinds of scenarios and interactions before releasing them, or were they too obscure to be considered a priority (and I’m speaking of both the Vista SP1 reboot loop and the XP SP3 issue described here)?
Did they miss this stuff on an ERD (entity relationship diagram) or again, too obscure?

Regardless, the only thing that I can really and legitimately ask from MS as this point is to let me know when it’s safe to dig myself out of this hole that I’m going to crawl into.  My productivity is too important to have issues like this cause problems for me. Smaller companies can’t afford to have their productivity negatively impacted like this, and I’d encourage them to take the issue directly to their MS account reps and raise the issue of compensation, should they get hit with any of problems arising from the on again-off again availability of these important operating system updates.

UPDATE: While writing this column (and waiting for it to be posted), MS posted XP SP3 again for download.  You should be able to get the update now. 

But I would love to hear what you have to say. If you download the update and install it, I’d love to hear how it went for you. Why don’t you join in the discussion and let us know what’s on your mind?

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