Summer is typically a slow time for computer sales, but it's often the busiest time of the year for software and PC makers, who massage new products into sellable form. This summer, Microsoft is busier than ever prepping several important upgrades and prereleases--all of which will ship soon--for its core products. Planned for July are Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 (SP3) and Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server) Release Candidate 1 (RC1). In August, Microsoft will ship the important Windows XP SP1 release, which will form the foundation for two other upcoming releases: XP Media Center Edition ("Freestyle") and XP Tablet PC Edition. It will also be required for compatibility with Windows Powered Smart Displays ("Mira").
As I noted last week in WinInfo Daily UPDATE, Microsoft recently delayed Win2K SP3 because of problems with Microsoft Installer (MSI) 2.0. After issuing an internal warning to the SP3 development team before the July 4th holiday, Microsoft decided to keep MSI 2.0 in SP3 and reworked the schedule based on feedback it received from beta testers and its internal support service. The company recently shipped SP3 RC3 build 3.151 to testers. This build includes several security and bug fixes, the Set Program Access and Defaults interface that the company's proposed settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) requires, and support for Automatic Updates.
Win.NET Server RC1 will also ship sometime in the "coming weeks," according to the company. On July 8, Microsoft internally shipped build 3660 and gave it to testers late last week, sources tell me. This build features some of the changes that beta testers expected to see in RC1, including a new Server Configuration application, new Web-like management front ends, and a locked-down copy of Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) 6.0. I'll post a full review of Win.NET Server RC1 on the SuperSite for Windows when the product becomes available.
Mid-August's important XP SP1 release will replace existing XP products sold by retailers and on new PCs. XP SP1 will be required for compatibility with Windows Powered Smart Displays. XP SP1 also includes the DOJ-required changes, as well as several security and bug fixes, changes to Microsoft Product Activation, and new Automatic Updates features. For more information about XP SP1, see my preview on the SuperSite for Windows.