Originally expected today, then delayed until the end of this week, Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) will now ship within 10 days, according to Microsoft. The company announced the delivery schedule late yesterday in an effort to comply with part of its proposed settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which specifies a timetable for delivering compliance changes. Those changes are part of SP1, Microsoft says.
XP SP1 includes Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 6 SP1, support for USB 2.0, several security and bug fixes, and the new Set Program Access and Defaults UI component, which Microsoft's DOJ settlement proposal requires. Set Program Access and Defaults lets users choose to hide certain XP middleware applications, including IE, Microsoft Outlook Express, Windows Media Player (WMP), Windows Messenger, and Microsoft's Virtual Machine for Java. Third-party applications can register with the UI, and their icons will appear in a list of available middleware applications, which will let users choose which applications appear in the XP UI, Microsoft says. SP1 also enhances Product Activation to prevent users who have pirated product keys from upgrading.
Furthermore, XP SP1 will usher in the release of two new XP versions: XP Media Center Edition, which will power new Media Center PCs, and XP Tablet PC Edition, which is designed for a new generation of portable computers that use a stylus and active digitizer screen. In the United States, XP Media Center will be available only with new Hewlett-Packard (HP) PCs; several PC makers will release Tablet PCs in the coming months.
XP SP1 will be available as a free download for existing XP users. Starting in October, Microsoft will convert all retail XP packages to SP1 versions so that new buyers get the updates immediately.