Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled to private beta testers the second external build (build 2082) of the recently redesigned Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). The build features a new front end for security-oriented tasks, new UIs for wireless networking, and Lonestar updates for XP Tablet PC Edition (which Microsoft will market as XP Tablet PC Edition 2004). As previously reported in WinInfo Daily UPDATE, XP SP2 will be a major update for all XP users when Microsoft releases it by midyear.
"We've got quite a bit of work to do before it's end-user ready," Matt Pilla, senior product manager for the Windows Group, told me during a recent visit to the Microsoft campus. "The goal is to get security features out to customers as soon as possible but make sure they're customizable enough that they don't block deployments." Pilla noted that Microsoft shipped the current beta to about 500 testers. This build is the first external SP2 build to support XP Media Center Edition (MCE) in addition to XP Home Edition, XP Professional Edition, and XP Tablet PC Edition, and I was able to test this support on an XP MCE 2004-based PC.
XP SP2 build 2082 includes the new Windows Security Center application, which is based on a similar tool from last year's "PC Satisfaction" beta. Basically a Web-based tool, Security Center monitors your Windows Firewall, Automatic Updates, and Virus Protection settings and warns you if any are deemed unsafe. You can now set the Windows Firewall to On (Recommended), On (But don't allow exceptions; recommended for mobile use), and Off (Not Recommended). Beyond this obvious new feature, build 2082 includes small tweaks to the wireless-networking interface and slightly updated versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), Microsoft Outlook Express, and Windows Media Player (WMP) 9 Series.
My recent review of the XP SP2 Beta remains the definitive overview of this product, and I'll update the review this week with new screenshots and information, particularly about Security Center. For more information, visit the SuperSite for Windows.