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XP SP2 pushed back

A network management expert and Windows MVP outlines highlights from the coming release of Microsoft's much-anticipated Windows XP Service Pack 2.

If you're waiting on the new Windows XP service pack, it looks like the wait just got a trifle longer.

There are reports that the software release candidate will be pushed back two weeks -- from May 12 to May 26 -- and the release to manufacturing will be July 21, one month later than originally planned.

Microsoft declined to comment but reiterated that the software will ship "sometime this summer."

The delay is minor, and analysts and customers were largely unconcerned. "There is often a delay in the final fit and finish," said Steve Kleynhans, a vice president of Meta Group, a Stamford, Conn., consulting firm.

Others agreed. "If it's just a matter of a month versus a delay of six months, it's not a big issue," said Mike Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash. consulting firm.

Cherry, who is in the Windows XP SP2 beta program said that although he doesn't know the reason for the delay, he is concerned that some of the third-party software he uses is not reporting to the new Security Center correctly. The Security Center is a Windows System Tray item from which users can check all security settings, he said.

"Maybe Microsoft is taking a delay so other [third-party] vendors can finish up some work," Cherry said.

Windows XP SP2 is a major upgrade to XP and intends to bring Windows XP up to the security levels of Windows 2003, Cherry said. There are the normal patches and updates, but SP2 also makes major changes that include enabling the Windows Firewall by default.

Cherry emphasized that corporate customers must take their time and test Windows XP SP2. "This is a new release of a product," he said. "This is not just a service."

He said corporations will have some problems with the update because it aggressively prompts users to activate AutoUpdate and because the Windows Firewall, once called the Internet Connection Firewall, is turned on by default.

Additional testing will be required to make the new desktop OS work with Group Policy, he said.

Some customers are well aware of the potential dangers. "We are certainly going to test it because of the firewall," said Roger Wilding, a senior technical engineer at CNF Inc., a Palo Alto, Calif., transportation company.

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