Windows XP update delayed

Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, originally planned to ship in the first half of the year, will now at best be released in July. The major, security-focused operating system update doesn't yet meet Microsoft's standards, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

Microsoft as recently as last week said Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP was on schedule for release in the first half of the year. The company has now decided to delay the update to "some time in the third quarter" because testing has not been completed and Microsoft continues to make changes to the software based on input from testers, the spokesman said.

"Ultimately the final release will ship when SP2 meets the quality standards customers demand," he said. Internally, Microsoft is aiming for release in July, according to a source familiar with the company's plans.

Microsoft released a beta of SP2 for Windows XP service pack in December, followed by Release Candidate 1 in March. A Release Candidate 2 is still scheduled to be released in May, the spokesman said. The test versions of SP2 for Windows XP have been downloaded over 200,000 times, he said.

SP2 for Windows XP is more than the usual roll-up of bug fixes and updates. It is also being used to make significant changes to the software that are designed to improve security, Microsoft has said. Changes to Windows XP made by SP2 fall into four main areas: network protection, memory protection, e-mail security and browsing security.

Microsoft has warned developers that they should test their applications with SP2 because the company made something of a trade-off with the update, focusing on security improvements at the expense of backward-compatibility. If developers don't test, they might find their software will no longer work on updated Windows machines.

While the XP update has already delayed the development of Longhorn, the next release of Windows expected in 2006, the slip in the SP2 delivery date has no further effect on the Longhorn beta time-frame, according to Microsoft. The vendor had reassigned developers working on Longhorn to work on the service pack for Windows XP. As a result the first Longhorn beta was pushed back from mid-2004 until early 2005.

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