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Windows XP SP2 knocked back to 2004

But not delayed, exactly...

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Microsoft has delayed Service Pack 2 for Windows XP for anything up to a year, sweetly claiming as it does so that there's been no official schedule announced, so it's not delayed at all. News of the notadelay was unearthed by BetaNews, which says Windows client team members have confirmed that SP2 will be delivered in 2004; the company's product lifecycle web site however indicates that it is scheduled for Q3 2004.

The previous date for SP2, the unannounced one which now doesn't exist, was "later in 2003." This became known at the beginning of this year when Microsoft announced how it would use service packs to implement rulings stemming from the Sun v Microsoft litigation. And incidentally, we use the expression "became known" quite deliberately, because it seems to have been one of those pieces of information everybody seemed to know and write, but that with hindsight seems not to be yield a ready audit trail. Microsoft frequently uses this approach, letting things become known semi-confidentially to sundry trusties and analysts then pleasing itself whether to regard the info as official further down the line. Beats having to admit to delays.

Whatever, delay or notadelay, the gap between SP1 and SP2 will be lengthy. But why? BetaNews has a denial that the company is planning an interim update or security rollup, but also some interesting pointers to the company's current thinking. It's looking at ways to make security fixes more available and easier to install (which may have something to do with this), and it's claiming people are now tending to get realtime updates from Windows Update rather than wait for service packs.

This, you might consider, makes service packs a tad redundant, but the company seems to envisage repositioning service packs as delivery mechanisms for upgrades and new features, in addition to containing rollups of previous fixes. This would allow it to take a longer view of service pack development, and in the case of XP SP2 to perhaps make it a kind of de facto interim release, pre-Longhorn.

Legal issues may also some impact on the schedules. With the conclusion of the European Commission's investigation now fairly imminent, corrective actions Microsoft might be forced to take would likely interfere with a late 2003 SP2. And could also make a slight mess of the PC manufacturers' plans to ship Media Center PCs in Europe - but we expect they've all taken this possibility into account, already. ®

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