It's pretty simple, really. I think they prioritize the downloads they are proud of, instead of the ones that are most popular or that are most needed.
When I went looking for SP2 for SQL Server 2005 today, as I have done so many times in the past, I muttered to myself, why do they make this so hard to find?
Granted, if you have a keen eye, you will find an obscure link on the SQL Server front page (http://www.microsoft.com/sql/) … but still, humor me: open a second browser window, and follow me on this path. Click on the "Downloads" link in the left navigation on that page, where I would expect to find at least a mention of Service Pack 2. Nope, sorry, instead you are greeted with tons of trial, evaluation and free software. Oh, and DPM, JDBC drivers, demos, overviews, etc. No mention of service packs at all. Are service packs no longer considered downloads?
Next I tried the "Support" link on the left-hand side, and there is nothing on that page, either. I would think that a casual SQL Server user coming across a problem might head here first, and learn that there is at least one service pack available, and in turn applying this service pack may fix his/her issue. However, this did lead me to "Top SQL Server Downloads" – a link to an RSS feed in the bottom right corner of the screen. Why this wasn't available when I clicked on "Downloads" in the left column, I'm not sure, but this was the straw that coerced me to write anything about this at all.
If you click on the link (too long to print in plain text) and peruse the "top" downloads, you will be amazed that no service pack for SQL Server 2005 shows up on the list at all. One might argue that they are too far down on the list, for one reason or another. But I would find it hard to explain why the following downloads are considered "more top" than a SQL Server 2005 service pack:
Do you really expect me to believe that there are more people downloading AdventureWorks and service packs for software written 10 years ago, than service packs for the most current version of SQL Server? I can see how the SP2 maintenance plan debacle would scare enough people to drown out that download, but what about SP1? An unrelated and incidental comment by Steve Kass earlier today made me wonder if this "TOP" algorithm was designed by the same people who implemented TOP in SQL Server, giving two distinct purposes for an ORDER BY clause… a design that is still causing them problems to this day.
Perhaps it is a vicious cycle, where SP2 has become an unpopular download merely because it is so hard to find. I have complained about this a dozen times in the past, and amazingly, it is only slightly more visible now than when it was first released. And it still does not even warrant a mention on the pages I would expect it most. I think if I just remember to read every single link on the /sql/ page, this won't happen again. But what about all those other users out there, trying to find the download? Hopefully they know how to use Google.