Microsoft has posted the long-awaited first service pack for its flagship operating system, Window 2000.
The move addresses many of the compatibility and reliability issues that have led some users to hold back from deployment so far, according to some analysts.
Available from Microsoft's Windows 2000 website or using the operating system's Windows Update feature, the 83Mb file is believed to include security fixes and repairs for networking software flaws, including issues about setting up and administering directory services.
Service Pack 1 is also believed to correct a 'large number' of setup bugs, 35 access violation errors, five memory leaks and 12 stop errors.
The release is important because many industry analysts, including Gartner, had advised users to wait for the first service pack release before moving to Windows 2000, because of concerns over compatibility problems with older software.
Gartner analyst Ed Thompson said that mindful of Microsoft's past history, the research firm had advised users to wait for the company to iron out "obvious bugs and security flaws" before deploying Windows 2000.
"We had thought there would be stability issues, but Windows 2000 was not as bad as we first thought - but we still feel the advise was reasonable," said Thompson. "Most companies are still evaluating Windows 2000 and a lot of work needs to go into migration."
The areas to be considered before moving to Windows 2000 include building up a business case for migration, testing applications, Active Directory design and user training, said Thompson.
He predicts that many companies will begin rollouts in the final quarter of this year, with even stronger uptake in the first quarter of next year.
Simon Moores, chairman of the Microsoft Forum user group, said: "We've seen many companies waiting for Service Pack 1 before using Windows 2000 in anger.
"Windows 2000 has been remarkably stable anyway, but Service Pack 1 removes irritating little features and gives companies confidence."
However, independent analyst Mitul Mehta, of TekPlus, said the availability of the service pack would not alter users' existing migration plans.
"For early users this is good news but others will migrate as and when they need the operating system - and when the cost is right. Some might even skip a generation," said Mehta.
He added that Microsoft needs to put more work into explaining its future roadmap to end users, many of whom are struggling to keep on top of the volume of its recent initiatives, such as the .Net platform.
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