At some point after noon CST on Tuesday, March 6th, Microsoft made their latest service pack for Windows XP available. Earlier that day, articles were still being written about the latest collection of bug fixes and added features being "in limbo." However, the update is now ready for download from Microsoft's Windows Update site.
XP and Vista service packs still in limbo (Yahoo News)
The update contains all of the bug fixes that have been released prior to the service pack, along with some feature upgrades. Among these are Network Access Protection, which checks antivirus and patch levels before it allows a computer access to the network, as well as black hole router detection. Microsoft hasn't always done a good job with patching and service packs, but has been improving lately to the point that some people believe that they are headed in a positive direction where Apple's patch management has gotten worse.
Windows XP SP3 Inches Closer To Release (Information Week)
XP SP3, Vista SP1 back online for automatic updates (Network World)
Apple's Security Patch Process Gets Worse While Microsoft's Gets Better (Information Week)
Microsoft's patch management strategy has seriously evolved over the past 10 years. The last truly bad service pack I have seen was SP4 for Windown NT 4.0 (never in my life have I seen so many BSOD's as after that one), but all of them since then have broken far less than they have fixed. Breaking with my usual tradition, I included the service pack on a machine I started building yesterday, where I usually wait a few weeks before applying a new service pack. Are you happy with the job Microsoft is doing with patch management?