Microsoft Announces Windows XP SP2 Release Candidate 2

The RC2 code that was made available Monday had been promised for release in mid-May, but the date shifted after Microsoft confirmed last month that the final release of Windows XP2 had slipped until the third quarter. The beta was first released in December and RC1 appeared in March. The Windows update was originally scheduled to ship during the first half of 2004.

In spite of the delay, solution providers expect a significant uptake of Windows XP SP2 due to the enhanced security settings, an improved Windows Firewall, new features and data execution improvements designed to reduce the attack surface of Windows and frustrate would-be hackers.

The update, the first significant update since Windows XP SP1 was released in September 2002, also boasts a new Windows Security Center as well as an attachment manager that guards against dangerous e-mail. It also promises several improvements to the more vulnerable Web browser, including an Internet Explorer pop-up blocker, information bar and download monitoring.

The update also incorporates a host of other new features including native Bluetooth support, a new wireless LAN client and upgrades to Windows Media Center Edition 2004, Windows Media Player 9.0b, DirectX and XP Tablet PC Edition 2005.

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"I saw a preview of XP SP2 several months ago and really wished that it was available right then and there," said Jeffrey Sherman, president of Warever Computing, Los Angeles. "For everything we consultants do, we have to consider a cost/benefit analysis: Is the cost of what we're doing worth the benefit? Well, in this case, given the cost--free--and the benefit--additional features and at a minimum higher security and easier updates--implementation is a no brainer. You'd be a fool not to keep up with the current slew of updates so installing SP2 would fit right in," he said.

One source close to Microsoft said the company is getting closer to a final release but hit some snags due to the magnitude of the changes and new features added to the Windows client.

"The compatibility issues have been more problematic than expected," said the source, who requested anonymity. "Microsoft is doing a really difficult dance between compatibility and security, and I don't envy them this dance."