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Windows XP SP2 Coming in August

Windows XP Service Pack 2, arguably Microsoft's biggest service pack yet and the company's most important security project since the Trustworthy Computing initiative, will be released in August, the company announced Monday.

"We are on track to RTM [Release to Manufacturing] Service Pack 2 in August," a Microsoft spokesperson said. The spokesperson declined to be more specific on whether Microsoft was aiming for early, mid- or late August.

Microsoft does not plan to make design changes to the feature set released with Release Candidate 2 of Windows XP SP2, which came out in June, the spokesperson said. "It will depend ultimately on customer feedback," the spokesperson added.

With most Microsoft products, the RTM date precedes availability by a month or two. Because SP2 will be a download for existing Windows XP customers, availability will be immediate with RTM. However, new PCs will ship with SP2 installed, and that will occur sometime later.

Microsoft will encourage customers to download SP2 through Microsoft Automatic Update. Customers will be able to choose to receive SP2 on a CD for free and Microsoft will pay the shipping costs, the spokesperson said. "We are also working with major retail outlets on ways to distribute SP2 and will have more details on this closer to availability," the spokesperson said.

In development for nearly two years, Windows XP SP2 includes an overhauled firewall, enhanced browser protections, additional e-mail safeguards, a pop-up blocker and a new security center that puts many security settings in a single console. The service pack also is planned to coincide with the release of a new generation of Windows Update and Automatic Update.

SP2 had originally been scheduled for delivery in 2003 until Microsoft decided to refocus the operating system update to improve the security of Windows XP. More recently SP2 slipped from a June delivery target.

The service pack is the first deliverable under Microsoft's "Springboard" initiative, which the company is using to harden products that are already on the market. Windows Server 2003 is also slated for Springboard treatment in its Service Pack 1 sometime later this year. In fact, Microsoft officially refers to the service pack as "Windows XP Service Pack 2 with Advanced Security Technologies."

The announcement of Windows XP SP2's pending availability comes as Microsoft is under heavy fire for the security of Internet Explorer. A recent attack in the wild called Download.ject abused problems in the browser to upload trojans on compromised, banking Web sites through IE without any user action.

Even as Microsoft acknowledged there were no patches to protect Internet Explorer users from the problems posed by the Download.ject attack, the company noted that users running the then unavailable Windows XP SP2 would be protected from similar attacks.

Windows XP SP2's availability next month will clear the way for Microsoft to launch a major marketing campaign this fall to encourage adoption of Windows XP.

About the Author

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

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