Ten per cent of PCs hit by SP2 snag, researcher warns

More than 10 per cent of corporate-based Windows XP PCs, many owned by small companies, are being thrown out of whack by Microsoft’s Service Pack 2 requirements, the research arm of AssetMetrix

Inc. said Tuesday.

Ottawa-based AssetMetrix Research Labs said Microsoft Corp. confirmed certain applications and hardware within companies may no longer work properly after Windows XP Service Pack 2 is installed, and listed 60 applications that need to change to be compatible with the new operating system.

According to data from Microsoft’s knowledge base, some products that have become dysfunctional under Windows XP SP2 include AOL Toolbar version 1.13.2 (the information bar blocks access to the tool’s edit box); BitDefender AntiSpam version 7 (it cannot be installed); and Kaspersky Anti-Virus, the German version 5 program (real-time scanning does not work).

AssetMetrix Research discovered a relationship between the extent to which PCs are affected and the size of the company. Firms with fewer than 100 XP installations had an average adverse impact of about 12 per cent compared to larger organizations experiencing problems with about six per cent of their machines.

Though AssetMetrix Research Labs has no statistical proof, it reasoned smaller companies may be more negatively affected by the issue between software and SP2 because they often run older applications, Steve O’Halloran, managing director of AssetMetrix Research Labs, said.

Programs like Corel WordPerfect Office have run into problems with Windows XP SP2, O’Halloran noted, whereas Microsoft Office has not.

In this instance, Microsoft has a “”lion’s share”” in this market, forcing challenger Corel to look at alternatives to gain a better market share, named highly discounted editions in OEM bundles, he said.

AssetMetrix’s other theory about why small- and medium-sized companies are primarily taking a hit is based on standardization —— that is, whether one is buying software centrally or through end users or departments.

O’Halloran noted smaller outfits may have, for example, “”two or three editions”” of FTP transfer software because they lack internal enforcement or management. Larger counterparts would probably standardize on one type of FTP tool from a single vendor.

“”Thus, if you’ve got two or three, you’re kind of like the lottery — increasing your chances of getting this unfortunate jackpot.””

Although AssetMetrix cannot confirm specific glitches associated with foreign-language versions of XP, the Ottawa research firm did compare Microsoft’s software list to the 270,000 software titles in its own database, including localized editions and variations.

For instance, if AssetMetrix spotted English AutoCad 2000 on Microsoft’s list of software incompatible with XP SP2, O’Halloran said it would be safe to assume French and German titles are problematic as well. “”It’s extrapolation,”” he said.

Microsoft, which has shied away from calling the incidents of software incompatibility a problem, is also unaware of the effect of SP2 on foreign-language software.

“”We’re putting up (a) dialogue box — that’s what customers have asked us to do — to warn them when something or an application is trying to talk to their computer,”” said Elliot Katz, product manager, Windows client, for Mississauga, Ont.-based Microsoft Canada. “”It’s really for security.””

Katz said as long as a customer trusts the application vendor, he or she can simply click on the box labelled unblock. He said customers with concerns can contact the company directly through an 800 number.

Because the SP2 download is “”quite substantial,”” Microsoft expects 100 million customers to download the software by the end of October. “”When you go through something of this nature and of this size, there are situations where a problem can occur,”” Katz said.

Despite the reported problems, AssetMetrix advises its customers to view SP2 as a completely new operating system and deploy it. “”Don’t even think twice about it,”” O’Halloran noted.

He said though there will probably be an “”unexpected and unbudgeted cost to respond to the affected software issue,”” it’s in a company’s best interest to roll out the program now.

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