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Yesterday saw a further minor delay in the release of Windows XP Service Pack 2, the most significant revision of the Windows code base since its launch in 2001. Microsoft originally said it planned to release Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) to manufacturers on Wednesday. That didn't happen. Microsoft is now saying the release of SP2 is "imminent".

It's unclear why the release of SP2 has stalled at the starting gate but whatever the reasons its small beer compared to a series of previous delays that has repeatedly pushed the launch of much anticipated update further and further into the future. SP2 was originally due "sometime in 2003" until last August, when managers decided to knock it back to this year.

Microsoft has repeatedly said that its more interested in getting the release right, introducing further testing rounds if necessary, than meeting unofficial deadlines for SP2. The release, which made its debut as a beta back in March, bundles major security revisions and a new Windows update procedure.

Principal additions with Windows XP SP2 include: Windows Security Centre; automatically turning on Windows Firewall; and browsing enhancements to Internet Explorer (providing far more control of ActiveX controls, for example). Less mentioned so far, but arguably more important, is revamped memory protection to prevent buffer overruns, the perennial source of so many security problems. The Service Pack will also add a pop-up ad blocker to Internet Explorer - the most requested feature according to Microsoft - and a download manager.

Latest reports suggest SP2 for Windows XP Home Edition will weigh in at 70MB with the XP Pro update tipping the scales at 92MB.

XP2 is a highly significant upgrade both for sys admins and ISVs. Conflicts between XP and early versions of Microsoft's own CRM package have already been unearthed, so limited conflicts with some third party software applications appear more than likely.

Buckle up - it's going to be a bumpy ride. ®

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