RealTime IT News

August It Is For XP SP2

After almost a year of beta testing, Microsoft's Windows XP overhaul is finally ready for public consumption.

The oft-delayed Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) will be released in early August as a free download optimized for both broadband and dial-up customers, a company executive confirmed.

"At this point, it looks like RC2 will be the final release candidate. We are on track to RTM (release to manufacturers) in August," said Matt Pilla, Senior Product Manager for Microsoft, Windows Client.

The time frame marks the first time Microsoft has given something approaching a release date about the security-centric XP overhaul, which has been in testing phases for the past year. The XP SP2 has often been described as an interim Windows release before the next version of Windows (Longhorn) comes out. SP2 introduces technologies for network protection, memory protection, secure e-mail handling, secure browsing and PC maintenance.

Microsoft has also changed earlier plans to charge shipping and handling for CDs containing the service pack. "The CD, including shipping, will be free of charge," Pilla said.

As part of its release, Microsoft will spend an estimated $300 million to support the launch of XP SP2.

A huge chunk of the campaign will be spent working with OEMs to get the service pack installed on new PCs. Computer retailers such as CompUSA and BestBuy will pre-install the service pack on all new machines. Free CDs will also be available at locations nationwide.

Microsoft will be pushing customers to use the Windows Update and Automatic Update online utilities to download the 100MB service pack. Pillo said Microsoft's Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) technology will be used to aim for a seamless experience, even for narrowband users.

BITS makes use of leftover bandwidth to transfer files and is suited for issues such as suspended downloads. For example, if a consumer is using 60 percent of bandwidth, BITS will only use the remaining 40 percent and will maintain file transfers when a network disconnection occurs, or a computer needs to be restarted. When the network connection is re-established, BITS will continue where it left off.

"Customers taking advantage of Automatic Updates will be able to delay the reboot. Another plus is that Windows Update will not duplicate any download that Automatic Update has already installed," Pillo added.

XP SP2, billed as a complete overhaul of the security system and infrastructure of Windows XP, will also introduce a new Windows Security Center that allows the monitoring of firewalls, Automatic Update and third-party anti-virus software. It also warns customers about the need to apply patches.