We in the IT industry should all drop to our knees and thank Microsoft for two things - XP Service Pack 2 and of course the release of Media Center Edition 2005. These have something for everyone.
Tel$tra and most I$Ps must be happy with the millions of bytes downloaded that are pouring money into their coffers as consumers frantically try to update operating systems to stop potentially malicious attacks. A 200Mb download limit or a 56K steam-driven modem simply won't cut it.
Antivirus companies, firewall providers and spyware detectors must also be having a field day - you can now get a virus just by looking at a photo on a website and at last count there were more than 17,000 recognised spyware programs (up from just a couple of hundreds about this time last year).
And many of these products require an upgrade to work with SP2 ...
PC repairers are busy extracting healthy labour charges from consumers whose PCs and some peripherals have gone funny after installing SP2.
Retailers are reporting an increase in upgrades and new PC sales as lower powered PCs simply become too slow once fully loaded with all service packs.
Don't get me wrong, SP2 is a great leap forward for security and you must install it but it is really screwing up home PCs big time with a reported 10-15 per cent requiring a complete reinstall and I suspect a far larger number electing to do this anyway. It is incompatible with a fairly large range of existing software as well as being affected by certain types of spyware.
Reader feedback is that the ease of installing SP2 has been overstated - "Insert CD and press enter ..." The reality is that most face a two-hour install time and then have to answer questions better suited to a part-time rocket scientist when the firewall blocks their AV updates or cripples something else.
I hope MS in developing Longhorn take this message on board - most of your users don't know or care what goes on under the bonnet, only that it does.
Zero configuration is a well worn MS catchphrase so please stop letting the programmers decide how a patch should best be installed and invite Miss America to pre-test it first.
A parting note - Media Center Edition 2005 (MCE) is Microsoft's next big thing and they are spending a fortune to convince the masses that they must have this cool item.
My opinion is that it won't lead to a lot more sales in the short term as the masses learn they will have to fork out somewhere in excess of $4000 for a nice MCE PC and then, if the IT retailer is not able to help, visit the local hi-fi store to buy that big plasma screen and 5.1 Dolby system they have always wanted.
MCE makes a standalone HDTV hard disk recorder running embedded Linux look very attractive.