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Windows XP SP2 Released to Manufacturing

Windows XP Service Pack 2, Microsoft's important service pack delivering key security improvements to its flagship client operating system, was released to manufacturing on Friday, the company said.

The development milestone closes the book on development of a service pack that took nearly two years to complete. Windows XP SP2 was originally aimed at a 2003 delivery. But as security threats and vulnerabilities mounted, the company changed course and decided last fall to build significant security functionality into the service pack.

"Service Pack 2 is a significant step in delivering on our goal to help customers make their PCs better isolated and more resilient in the face of increasingly sophisticated attacks," Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, said in a statement. "It is the result of sustained investments in innovation and extensive industry collaboration. It also reflects a broad recognition that as the security environment changes, the industry needs to work together to respond."

Officially called Windows XP Service Pack 2 with Advanced Security Technologies, SP2 includes a new security dashboard, called the Windows Security Center; a rebuilt, renamed and on-by-default personal firewall, the Windows Firewall; support for no execution flags in newer processors; and enhancements to security configurations in the browser and e-mail client.

Microsoft's Friday announcement does not include official delivery schedules. It remains unclear when the service pack will be made available via MSDN, through Automatic Update or on CD. Windows enthusiast sites have listed Aug. 25 as the day for Automatic Update downloads to begin.

Microsoft plans to localize SP2 in 25 languages over the next two months. "The easiest way for current Windows XP users to ensure they receive Service Pack 2 when it releases in their language is to simply turn on the Automatic Updates feature in Windows XP," the company said in a statement. The company expects to deliver SP2 to about 100 million PCs through Automatic Updates over the next two months.

New systems from Dell, HP, IBM and other computer manufacturers will begin shipping with Windows XP SP2 preloaded in September.

While Microsoft, security experts and analysts all are urging users to deploy the major update to the operating system as quickly as possible, they have also been warning that SP2 will break some applications due to the locked-down settings. Users have duly noted the warnings and aggressively downloaded the beta and release candidate versions of the software. Microsoft has hosted more than 1 million downloads of test versions of SP2, making it one of the largest test programs in the company's history.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.