Microsoft has delayed the release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 until late summer, and the software might not be officially released until the Fall. The delay has major implications for OEMs and third party software developers, who because of underlying security changes in the code, have been warned to test their software for compatibility.
SP2 was originally due to be released "later in 2003". The major release not only rolls up service patches but adds new firewall and wireless features. XP currently ships with a software firewall (ICF), but for the first time users will be strongly persuaded to turn this on. Microsoft's neglected web browser Internet Explorer finally gains a pop-up blocker (but not tabbed browsing, as we suggested earlier). And where supported, hardware-based memory protection (NX, or "Execution protection") will prevent code execution from data pages - although only Opteron and Itanium are the only Windows-ready architectures that support this to date.
A beta was released in December and customers were led to believe that the code would ship sometime in the first half of 2004. The delay affects summer promotions by OEMs based around shipping PCs with XP SP2 pre-loaded. It hits TabletPC vendors hardest, because OEMs and resellers with an eye on the educational channel had been waiting for "Lonestar", or TabletPC 2005 Edition. Lonestar was delayed pending the inclusion of SP2 fixes. A delay into late summer will mean resellers miss the traditional midsummer buying season.
A Microsoft spokesman said it will be ready when it's ready, and wouldn't name a date. ®
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