Late last week, Microsoft posted on its Web site an interesting document that outlined the company's release plans for various Windows service packs. The document listed "Q3 2004" as the release date for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), prompting reports that Microsoft will delay the service pack, originally due late this year, until late 2004. A little fact-checking goes a long way, however, and after conferring with various Microsoft representatives, I've confirmed that "Q3 2004" is, indeed, a typo. That's the good news. The bad news is that the service pack is still shipping a lot later than originally expected--not until the first half of 2004.
"Unfortunately, that Web site is incorrect," a Microsoft representative told me yesterday. "Windows XP Service Pack 2 will actually ship by mid-2004, and we announced this date at the annual Financial Analysts Meeting last month." Microsoft Group Vice President Jim Allchin did note at the meeting that SP2 will ship by mid-2004. "We have Service Pack 2 for Windows XP coming out this fiscal year," he said. Because Microsoft's fiscal year runs from July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004, "fiscal 2004" refers to that time frame, not calendar year 2004. The schedule Allchin announced, I was told, is still correct.
The Microsoft representative also told me that XP SP2 won't include any major new features but will instead consist of all the bug and security fixes Microsoft has published since XP's release in October 2001. That fact makes the schedule nonsensical, however. If XP SP2 contains only updates, it should ship immediately, not in 6 months; XP SP1 shipped almost a year ago and the number of post-SP1 updates now available on Windows Update is staggering, especially for modem users. Contrary to previous reports, upcoming products such as Windows XP Media Center Edition "V2," Windows XP Tablet PC Edition "V2," and Windows Powered Smart Displays "V2"--all due by the end of calendar year 2003--don't rely on XP SP2, the representative told me.
On a related note, reports about an XP "mini security service pack" are also unfounded. Microsoft told me that the company currently has no plans to ship such an interim service pack.