When Windows XP arrived last year, the enterprise was underwhelmed: Most new XP features were clearly aimed at consumers, not business users, and the benefits the new system offered over Windows 2000 were unclear. A year later, XP is more entrenched, however, and a new Service Pack 1 (SP1) release will address some enterprise concerns. Here's what you need to know about XP SP1.

Enhanced Security, Reliability, and Compatibility
XP SP1 includes a security rollup package that contains all the security patches Microsoft released for XP between its release to manufacturing (RTM) and XP SP1's RTM. The company made many of these fixes during a Trustworthy Computing code review in early 2002.

New Capabilities
XP SP1 includes support for USB 2.0 devices and provides the underlying technology for Freestyle multimedia software, Mira remote-display devices, and the Tablet PC platform. It also includes an optional Microsoft .NET Framework installation. However, none of these technologies are included in SP1; enterprises won't have to roll out unnecessary software, which will speed deployment and aid reliability. XP SP1 also doesn't include Bluetooth support, which Microsoft says it will deliver separately through Windows Update.

Consent-Decree Compliance
In keeping with Microsoft's proposed settlement with the US government, XP SP1 will include a new feature called "Set Program Access and Defaults," which lets users, administrators, and OEMs hide Windows middleware—including Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), Outlook Express, Windows Messenger, Windows Media Player (WMP), and Java Virtual Machine (JVM)—and replace it with third-party alternatives. For example, enterprises that want to roll out Netscape Navigator instead of IE can now do so more easily, although the IE code remains hidden on each system.

Availability and Recommendations
Microsoft will ship XP SP1 by September 2002. My recommendation mirrors Microsoft's: Roll out this release on all XP desktops.