A few days ago, I blogged about a Neowin article that published a "secret” time table for the release of Windows XP SP3. I was a bit skeptical because I learned from the past that such information is usually not very reliable. On Monday, many news sites reported that XP SP3 indeed RTMed. I was quite surprised to read that volume licensing customers have access to the pack, but Technet and MSDN subscribers don't. So I logged on to Microsoft’s volume licensing site to see if SP3 is really there.

Well, it wasn’t. Then I read that Microsoft’s release date acrobats changed their mind again and published XP SP3 for Technet and MSDN customers. So I logged on with our MSDN account. Guess what? No Windows XP SP3 far and wide. And now I read in this Computerworld article that it will only be available in June for volume licensing customers. So what now? Please, let me know if you were able to spot SP3 on MSDN or Technet.

It is not that I can’t wait to get my hands on this service pack. I already said before that Windows XP SP3 is a real yawner. XP is a dying operating system, so nobody expected revolutionary new features. What I find disturbing is this sloppy, unprofessional attitude. Sorry, if I am repeating myself here. But I am not the only one. Take this Computerworld article where a Microsoft customer is cited:

"Well, that's just damned ridiculous," said "Jacobyte666," who identified himself as a "disgruntled Volume License and TechNet Beta Plus subscriber."

"I really think [Microsoft] have 'jumped the shark' in the last year or so what with the Vista SP1 debacle and now this," Jacobyte666 went on to say. "I work at a large education site and we're seeing increasing numbers of Macs being used by IT support staff, teaching staff and students ... is it any wonder?"

I just read that Apple sold 2.1 million Macs in the second quarter of 2008, 51% more than last year’s quarter. I do not think that Mac OS X is a better choice. From a technical point of view there is no real alternative to the Windows platform. There is no doubt about that. But it is quite obvious to me that Microsoft has a serious marketing problem. It is this unprofessional behavior which fosters the negative perception of Windows in general.

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So my humble advice for Microsoft would be: Publish your release date time table as early as possible as a proper press release instead of giving non-committal information on a Technet forum. The media wouldn’t be forced to speculate about release dates and could just report about the technical advantages of the Microsoft platform.

16 Comments
  1. Joe 14 years ago

    It is available on Technet, as I downloaded it yesterday. Like the Vista SP1 download (at least at first), it is not easy to find. I had to click on ‘Technet Subscriptions’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page, where it lists “Top Subscriber Downloads”. Currently, “Windows XP Service Pack 3 (x86) – CD (English)” is number one on the list. I’ve already integrated it with my network install and I’m working with it, it’s the real deal.

  2. Qhartman 14 years ago

    “From a technical point of view there is no real alternative to the Windows platform. There is no doubt about that.”

    I’m sorry, but, are you high? That is the most patently false wrong-headed thing I’ve ever seen you write. Your blog is the only Windows-dedicated blog I read because you are typically so even handed, calling MS out when need to be, and giving them credit where it is due. But making this claim is just FUD.

    I am a Sysadmin who works with OSX, Linux, and Windows in about equal share, though I vastly prefer Linux. It is my belief that from a technical perspective _any_ of those platforms is a valid choice; each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The _only_ factor that counts (platform wise) is business requirements and user desires/skillset. How can you possibly claim that Windows is the clear winner technologically with so much much evidence available online to the contrary? What technological marvels of the Windows platform can you point to that make it so that “there is no real alternative”?

  3. Joe 14 years ago

    I can’t speak for Michael, but I’m guessing maybe he’s speaking from an ‘Enterprise Management’ viewpoint. If that’s the case, I’d have to agree, the technology to deploy and manage large numbers of machines is vastly superior for Windows, nearly non-existent for Mac, and somewhere in between for Linux. Replace his word ‘technical’ with ‘practical’ and his claim is pretty solid.

  4. Jim 14 years ago

    I have to agree with Qhartman. I’ve read this blog for quite some time and it seemed not long after Vista was out and getting even more hammered in the press suddenly the blog seemed to be written by a Microsoft apologist when it didn’t seem so much like that before. When this blog sticks to true technical oriented posts, it shines.

    Please keep the shine and move away from rallying cries of this platform is better than this platform. And, yes, I know you’ve also talked down Windows and talked up Linux a few times. It’s just those sort of blog posts and media articles are everywhere. It’s old, tiresome, and broad statements rarely can be made.

    As for this blog post there are certainly going to be environments where Windows makes a lot more sense. There are alot of environments though where Macs or Linux could be used as well in my opinion. It’s not as much of a MS world as many would tend to believe. Competition is a good thing.

  5. Qhartman 14 years ago

    @Joe

    I’d have to disagree with you still. Enterprise management tools for Macs are quite robust, see http://www.apple.com/server/macosx/features/client.html for the sales pitch on them.

    Similarly, with the natural multi-user environment of Linux systems, their easy remote configurability, and scriptability, I find managing large numbers of Linux machines easier (and cheaper!!!) than doing so on Windows.

    Again, from an “enterprise management” viewpoint, there is no clear winner. All of the platforms have good tools if you know how to use them. Once again, the technology is not the differentiator, the preferences and skills of the users / administrators are!

  6. Dave 14 years ago

    I think some of Michael’s bias toward Microsoft may come from working in Education. These campus licensing agreements are insanely generous to schools when compared to VL agreements. It makes it real easy to pick Microsoft over everything else.

    But to his point that it’s the only real option, I’d have to agree. If you look at Microsoft as a whole, (desktop & server OS, desktop applications and servers) it’s pretty easy to pick Microsoft. They’re into just about everything, and they work hard to crush their competition. Sure you can mix and match other vendors/OS’s in here and there, but the majority of my (and I’d guess your) software is Microsoft based. If it’s not, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

  7. Leonardo 14 years ago

    One mere sentence, and the real content of the blog is instantly forgotten.

    Thanks for the entertainment, guys.

  8. Michael Pietroforte 14 years ago

    Joe, unfortunately my Technet subscription expired. I am not sure if Microsoft’s press service will renew it after all my complaints here 😉 But it is interesting that it is available via Technet but not MSDN.

    Qhartman, we don’t have to agree on everything, do we? 😉 Joe interpreted my comment correctly. I am not just speaking about Windows. Usually, “Windows platform” refers to the whole Microsoft ecosystem, i.e. System Center, Exchange, Sharepoint, Office, etc. I really think there are no alternatives to Microsoft in this field. Note that my comment was only about desktops. Linux has its strength in certain fields, for example content management or grid computing, but Linux on the desktop is dead in my view. It simply didn’t happen. They have been trying it for so long already, but nobody wants it. It is just a matter of fact. Look at the Linux desktop market share. It doesn’t exist. It’s a pity, really. I like Linux.

    Apple on the other hand has the chance to become a Microsoft competitor on the desktop. But it seems to me that Mr. Jobs isn’t really interested in it. Do you know this “I am a PC, I am a Mac” campaign? It is quite obvious that they still only target the cool guys with class and style. I think they like this role of the exclusive and cool underdog. Of course, I would be glad if there was competition. I am not married to Microsoft. Prices would fall and they would be more cautious with their customers. But as things stand now I absolutely see no alternative to XP or Vista. Again, look at the market shares. Obviously, I am not the only one who thinks this way. It’s sad, yes. But it is not my fault, is it?

    Jim, I absolutely agree. These platform discussions are rather pointless. I didn’t expect that this tiny sentence would provoke such emotions on a blog for Windows admins. But it is my opinion. What shall I do? Hide it? Actually, I think I have been bashing Microsoft too much recently. This is pointless, too. I agree that it makes much more sense to focus just on technical matters. But sometimes I just have to let off steam.

    Dave, you are right. All Microsoft stuff is very cheap for us. But if I worked for another employer I wouldn’t just start buying Macs, even if they could afford it. We have a couple of Linux servers. It costs us extra efforts to integrate them in our infrastructure. But it serves our purpose (CMS, Open Access, etc.) because there are no real alternatives from Microsoft. It is also a matter of fact that those Linux systems are quite expensive for us, even though we don’t have to pay the software. Those Linux admins earn almost as much as I do. 😉

    Leonardo, maybe there is another reason why you forget so fast. It is Friday, and I know what you do on Fridays. 😉

  9. Leonardo 14 years ago

    @Michael: This is the sentence I was referring to:

    “From a technical point of view there is no real alternative to the Windows platform. There is no doubt about that.”

    I’m a VERY jaded BOFH, and the whole OS discussion is old and tired, all the arguments have gone back and forth… Interchange the words with Mac and PC (no longer valid, since a Mac IS a PC now) or Xbox & PS3, Ford and Chevy, Rotary and piston, ad nauseum (literal nausea fills me).
    Mentioning “Who cares?” comes to mind, but I’m usually to mind-numbed to utter it.

  10. Michael Pietroforte 14 years ago

    Leonardo, I think, this is a never ending discussion because IT is evolving very fast. What is new now is that Apple is doing very well recently in the consumer market. So there are certainly some organizations who might be tempted to switch to Macs now. As far as I am concerned, I am able to resist this temptation quite easily.

  11. Joe 14 years ago

    One of the long time Mac users in upper IT management on our campus just twittered an interesting line:

    Gartner analyst said to us: “Managing Macs is an oxymoron. Macs just want to be free.” Yes!

    I haven’t ‘managed’ Macs in any way since System 7, so I can’t comment on how practical that is. What does bother me on our campus is that in a time of tight budgets they seem to be encouraging the purchase of Macs, with the notion of ‘hey, it can run Windows too’. That would be fine if it ONLY ran Windows, but with OSX installed as well, that’s two OSs to support (with one of them not being enterprise friendly), and the likelihood of duplicate software licenses to purchase (who’s going to switch OS just so they can run Photoshop?). Extra support plus extra software equals mo money.

  12. Michael Pietroforte 14 years ago

    Joe, this Gartner anecdote is really funny. That fits well to the “I am a PC, I am a Mac” campaign. I also often wonder why Mac fans think it is an argument that they can also virtualize Windows or work with dual boot if a certain app they need is not available for OS X. The point is that if I can do everything with Windows, but not with a Mac, why do I need a Mac in the first place? Just to be able to say I am also a Mac now? I think if you really need an app or device that is not available for a Mac then the discussion of which OS is best for you is already over. It is just not worth it to mess around with two systems even if you think that OS X is the better OS.

  13. Qhartman 14 years ago

    @Michael

    So, are you saying that if I prefer platform “A” for 95%-99% of what I do, but if task “X” can only be done on platform “B”, I should use “B” all the time? Even if I find “B” less comfortable, slower, more expensive, or harder to use for my other 95%-99% of my tasks? That’s what it sounds like you’re saying, and that seems rather silly. Do you really mean to suggest that common case should be sacrificed for the sake of the corner case?

  14. Michael Pietroforte 14 years ago

    Qhartman, the question is why you prefer platform A for 95%-99%? Let me put it this way. Most guys prefer a sports car for 95%-99%. They know that they won’t reach their destination faster with it because there are speed limits everywhere. But they know they look much cooler with the sports car. However, most people buy a normal car because they can do everything with it (bring your whole family, transport things, etc.) and because it is cheaper, of course. There are some lucky guys who can afford buying both, a sports car and a normal car. But the question is if you want to spend more money just to be cool. And you have to spend much more if you run Windows and Macs in your network. I am not only talking about the expensive Macs. To manage two different systems in your network will certainly cost you a lot. Do you really think it is worth it?

  15. Qhartman 14 years ago

    @Michael

    “…the question is why you prefer platform A for 95%-99%?”

    As I stated above, I prefer “A” over “B” because I find “B” less comfortable, slower, more expensive, or harder to use. All of those are barriers to my ability to effectively get work done. Ultimately, that is what computers are for.

    “…Most guys prefer a sports car for 95%-99%. They know that they won’t reach their destination faster with it because there are speed limits everywhere. But they know they look much cooler with the sports car. However, most people buy a normal car because they can do everything with it (bring your whole family, transport things, etc.) and because it is cheaper, of course. There are some lucky guys who can afford buying both, a sports car and a normal car. But the question is if you want to spend more money just to be cool.”

    Ahhh… beware analogies. Your example here illustrates someone who decided to sacrifice the corner case (going fast and looking cool) for the common case ( easily transporting people and stuff at a bearable price point) which seems to be in support of my argument for using the right platform for the job, and that the corner cases should not dictate platform choices. You’re trying to make the old argument that “people only use stuff other than Windows to look cool”. I’m sure that for some people that is true. In my case, and that of many people around the world, Windows simply is not the best tool for the job.

    “And you have to spend much more if you run Windows and Macs in your network. I am not only talking about the expensive Macs. To manage two different systems in your network will certainly cost you a lot. Do you really think it is worth it?”

    Well, that depends. This brings me back to my core point from above: Any of the current “big 3” platforms of Linux, Mac OS, or Windows are technologically competent enough to run a business (or your personal life), which one is “best” depends on the needs and skills of the people who will be using them; they all have strengths and weaknesses.

    For example, introducing a Mac just to run Adobe products is something that a lot of people like to attempt. That is foolish. Adobe products work just as well on Windows as they do on Macs, and they have for years. Introducing a Mac to run Adobe products because your rockstar graphic designer is twice as productive with a mac as they are with a PC though makes good sense. At my company I recently banished our only Mac because our new designer, unlike our previous one, is equally comfortable with Windows and we no longer had a good reason to support that Mac.

    Choosing any one of those platforms exclusively will give you the efficiency (cost) savings you talk about. Introducing a Windows machine to a Linux or OSX-based network introduces inefficiencies just as effectively as introducing a Mac or Linux machine into a Windows network. There are times that either of those can be the “right thing” to do, if your needs require it and the people involved have the skills to handle it. While it’s true that Windows is usually the default choice, and could even be called the “safe” choice, calling it the “only” choice is myopic.

  16. Michael Pietroforte 14 years ago

    Qhartman, I certainly believe that there are some rare cases where people are more productive with a Mac. My point is that when it comes to productivity for the vast majority of end users it simply doesn’t matter what desktop OS they use. This also applies to designers. I agree, though, that “only choice” is an exaggeration. “Default choice” comes closer to what I wanted to say.

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