Microsoft Confirms Windows XP SP2 Delayed Until 3Q

The Windows XP SP2, a significant Windows client update that incorporates a host of new security features, has slipped for release until sometime in the third quarter, a Microsoft spokesman said.

Company executives have promised repeatedly that Windows XP SP2 would be available during the first half of 2004. The service pack moved into beta testing late last year, and the first release candidate was made available in mid-March.

On April 20, Microsoft security executives said the second-release candidate would be released in mid-May and Microsoft was still targeting to ship during the first half of 2004.

The Microsoft spokesman acknowledged that the timing for the second release candidate may also be changed but would not comment on the reason for the delays. However some solution providers fear that Microsoft pushed back the release date because of significant security problems still remaining in the service pack.

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One solution provider, who requested anonymity, said Microsoft bumped into some security issues that it couldn't resolve before June. "They found some bugs."

Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a newsletter in Kirkland, Wash., said the delay illustrates the difficulty of integrating new features with a set of constantly-evolving patches. Service packs have traditionally included bug fixes and patches only, but Microsoft opted to use Windows XP SP2 as a vehicle to deliver an enhanced and new set of security features, including Windows Firewall and Windows Security Center.

"This really seems to show the need to just keep service packs as a collection of tested patches and come up with other ship vehicles to release changes to the features--via say a feature pack. By decoupling the patches from features, no matter how important or justified the feature changes may be, they could create a schedule whereby customers could know when a service pack would be available," the analyst said.

While observers acknowledge that the delay is significant, one solution provider said it would not be a big problem.

"I don't think customers are too bothered about it," said Ted Dinsmore, president of Conchango, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner in New York. "They would rather Microsoft put something out secure and correct then rush it."