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WinXP Beta 2 in not delayed again drama

Code virtually done and dusted for a whole extra 48 hours

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The great WinXP Beta 2 roadshow showed clear signs of degenerating into farce today, as a build that was ever so nearly, nearly shippable as Beta 2 last night, maybe any minute now, somehow magically translated itself into Beta 2 code "ready to roll" and "on track" for shipment on, er, Friday. Bear in mind, friends, that although the date March 21st was widely understood as the ship date for Beta 2, and is widely thought to be some three weeks after the date Microsoft first thought of, it can't be late because Microsoft only ever said Q1, and we've got a whole nine more days of that.

So it's on track still, although it's difficult to resolve the extra 48 hours (not official extra, of course) with the picture of frenzied, last-minute activity conjured up by Paul Thurrott's report of last night. That said: "'Build 2462a will [likely] be signed off as Beta 2,' one source confirmed this morning. 'So far, just under half of the signoffs have occurred for Beta 2. It should be all done and dusted [today], but there's always a chance it will take until tomorrow. There are literally thousands of things to be signed off.'"

That "a" in the build number certainly indicated some kind of weirdism was afoot, which was itself difficult to resolve with claims to Paul that the delay "occurred because Microsoft officials wanted this release to be of the highest possible quality." The latest info they've been giving him is that the last minute discovery of a "priority one bug" stopped Wednesday's rollout. Why they were apparently unaware of this bug at, er, the last minute, last night, when they were nearly done and dusted and busily signing off, we know not.

The emergence of Windows division VP Brian Valentine for a quick spin in eWeek, the mag somebody took the P out of, surely has some significance from a damage control point of view. A "Beta 2 ready to roll" headline is sure as hell better than whatever crud some ingrate is going to put at the top of this piece (that was you - Ed), anyway.

Brian doesn't mention Wednesday, and the word "delay" seems not have emerged in the discussions at all. Brian does say it'll be Friday so long as they don't find a priority one or show stopper bug. But perplexingly, he doesn't seem to mention the priority one show stopper bug Paul Thurrott says they found at the last minute last night. But it'll be great, right?

Well, er, no. We're not sure if Brian has drifted disastrously off-message here, or whether we're seeing the birth of a new piece of official market positioning spin. In the business space, WinXP is "no big deal... If you're a Windows 2000 customer, then keep deploying Windows 2000." We don't think he means you should keep doing this after WinXP ships, because that would kind of undermine the point of having Windows XP Consumer and Professional, wouldn't it? Although on the other hand we've yet to notice any massively obvious fork, even a visual one, between the two, so maybe we're not really going to get two after all. But Brian does come up with one kind of fork - the business version will be available as an upgrade from Win9x, WinNT and Win2k, while the consumer version will only upgrade from Win9x.

No doubt this is in response to customer demand, and not some kind of cynical mechanism introduced to support as yet undisclosed differential pricing.

Warming to his theme, Brian continues: "When you look at what XP does above and beyond Windows 2000, we have brought in some user interface and other scenarios. But in reality, it's just a 'dot one' release to Windows 2000..."* For consumers however it is revolutionary. Why it's a revolutionary upgrade for consumers when it's a point release of Win2k which, er, wasn't, is another one of those things we can't grasp. But we're going to go lie down now - it's obviously not worth waiting up for Beta 2. ®

Related stories:
One last build before beta 2 - MS goes on WinXP BSOD hunt
WinXP beta 2 slides a week - a marketing thing?

* A special message for the guy from Motorola who mailed us with a contrary view a couple of hours back: nya, nya, nya.

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