A Microsoft representative told me this morning that the company will release Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) to manufacturing in early August, a date that contradicts various Web stories that are pegging the oft-delayed release as occurring in 2 weeks. Will Poole, senior vice president of the Windows Client Business at Microsoft, will announce the release schedule and other XP SP2 details during his keynote address today at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2004 in Toronto.
According to the Microsoft representative that contacted me, SP2 is nearing completion and will be rolled out publicly when the most recent version of Windows Update is completed. "Microsoft is on track to release SP2 to manufacturing in August," the Microsoft representative said. "With that release to manufacturing (RTM), Microsoft will begin deployment of SP2, starting with the availability of Windows Update version 5. In distributing SP2, Microsoft's goal is to optimize the customer experience, delivering SP2 quickly and conveniently \[through Windows Update version 5's\] new smart downloading technologies for both narrowband and broadband customers."
Microsoft will also undertake a customer-education initiative in which the company will try to communicate the importance of enabling XP SP2's Automatic Updates feature, which lets the PC automatically download (and, optionally, install) critical security updates. Enabling Automatic Updates will "allow Microsoft to quickly respond to a changing security environment and give customers an opportunity to easily and effectively keep their PCs up to date," I was told.
Additionally, Microsoft this week is unveiling its new Windows Marketplace Web portal, a shopping and download site designed to help customers find and purchase third-party software, hardware and peripherals that work with XP and other Windows versions. Currently available only to US customers, Windows Marketplace will expand to international markets by third quarter 2004, Microsoft says. The company is using its partner conference this week to highlight the opportunities of Windows Marketplace.
Poole will also announce licensing changes for XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE); these changes will go into effect in time for this year's holiday season. Though details are scarce at the moment, I'm told that products made especially for XP MCE will be able to participate in the "Designed for Windows XP" logo program. I'll have more information about this development as details become available.