In many ways, the smaller size of patches seemed, at the very least, to imply that the codebase behind the Windows OS and Office might have been stabilizing, or at the very least, that the XP and Vista codebases were wrapping up in anticipation of the Next Big Thing, Windows 7. Apparently, that's not the case.
When I was a younger, brasher, more hot-headed geek in high school, the very name Microsoft would conjure up images of hatred. When Windows XP came out, I had heard rumors of something called "Palladium" and draconian DRM measures – and, let's be fair here – this was around the time Microsoft's competitors were starting to get good. Despite competition from MacOSX and Linux – very good competition, I might add, - Windows is still the OS of the masses, Office has not been displaced as office king-of-the-hill since it displaced WordPerfect, despite attempts by Sun, OpenOffice.org, Zoho, and Google. (That may change in the future, but not likely, according to Forrester.)
But it’s been an interesting road for Microsoft; XP SP2 wasn’t released with a whole lot of fanfare, but its basic competence (well, it compared favorably to previous versions of Microsoft OSes in the stability area, and similarly to contemporary MacOSX 10.2.)
Then Vista came out, and suddenly the old hatred for Microsoft is horrible again. To be fair, I ripped on Vista when it first came out, as it seemed like nothing worked; most of these problems were fixed with the service pack, but it was still more problematic than Windows XP while still doing the same basic job; this is one of the reasons that business adoption for Vista remains – well, let’s just say that most businesses will probably skip Vista and head straight to Windows 7.
Which brings us back to Patch Tuesday. If it wasn’t apparent before, it seems that no operating system is "done" anymore, like the Windows 95 and 98 days; (Even 98 had "98 second edition") and that even the most basic part of the computer – the operating system – requires the internet. But it also implies that patching is not something we're ever going to grow out of – that operating systems are never done. The open-source model, of course, relies on "release early, release often" but it seems that through Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 9, and Windows 10 (and Mac 10.6, 10.7, & 10.8) we'll be waiting for that big glob of data to download every week, to keep our systems up to date. On the other hand, Patch Tuesday is repeatable, predictable – hell, it’s so predictable, we call it "Patch Tuesday."