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Windows XP SP2 RC2 Released

Microsoft posted the second release candidate for Windows XP Service Pack 2, but the software giant is refusing to say when it hopes to ship the final version of the service pack, which amounts to a minor new release of the Windows client.

The release candidate comes about two months after Windows XP SP2 RC1 was posted in mid-March. The timetable for the repeatedly delayed service pack remains at Microsoft's latest loose target -- Q3. "RTM is still expected some time this summer," a Microsoft spokesperson said.

Complicating even that fuzzy release commitment is Microsoft's refusal to rule out an RC3 of Windows XP SP2. "That will depend on customer feedback gained during testing of RC2," the spokesperson said.

Microsoft posted RC2 for a small group of beta testers on Monday. RC2 is expected to be generally available to anyone who wants to test it sometime on Tuesday at www.microsoft.com/sp2preview/.

Service Pack 2 is the first major update to the Windows client since Service Pack 1 shipped in 2002. SP2, however, is more of an overhaul of the operating system than was any Windows service pack in recent memory. Primarily, SP2 provides security enhancements. The biggest changes are to the firewall, which is now on by default and offers much more granular controls. Other security changes to Windows XP that were present in the SP2 since the December Beta 2 stage included pop-up ad blocking and Internet file download blocking. The first Release Candidate introduced the Windows Security Center, which provides a dashboard for security tools like the firewall, anti-virus and security patches.

RC2 appears to be more of a fit and finish update. "We've done a lot of work to improve compatibility while still achieving the same level of security we have intended to deliver in SP2," the spokesperson said. "We also feel RC2 is very representative of the final SP2 product, so we strongly encourage continued testing with this release and providing us any final feedback."

Microsoft ranks the test programs for Windows XP SP2 among its largest product testing efforts to date. Hundreds of thousands of developers and business customers have tested beta and release candidate versions of Windows XP SP2 through Microsoft's Windows XP SP2 Technical Preview, Technical Beta and MSDN programs.

Other technology options in SP2 will include the 1.1 release of the .NET Framework, support for Bluetooth and a unified wireless LAN client to make it easier to connect to wireless hot spots. The service pack also includes upgrades for customers with Windows XP Media Center Edition the Tablet PC edition.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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