Confusion reigns over Windows XP SP2

After announcing that customers will see the next service pack for Windows XP this year, Microsoft now says it will be a beta only, and that final code is still some way off

Just three days after a Microsoft vice president -- who is in charge of and Windows Update -- told thousands of delegates at a conference in Florida that Service Pack 2 for Windows XP would be available by the end of 2003, the company has effectively retracted the comments and said that customers will see only a beta version of SP2 this year.

Richard Kaplan, vice president of content and delivery at Microsoft, made the statement during a talk to an audience of around 2,000 people at the Citrix iForum conference earlier this week, in which he explained why he believed that Windows Server 2003 was the best and fastest platform for Citrix MetaFrame users.

As part of Microsoft's overhaul of its security practices, he said patches would only be launched once a month and a "new version of Windows, called Windows XP SP2" would be available by the end of the year.

However, on Friday, Microsoft issued a statement saying that only a beta version of the service pack will be available this year, with the full version scheduled to be released mid-2004. "It is too early in the development cycle to provide a more specific timeline for its release," the company stated.

The service pack was originally scheduled for release this year, but in August Microsoft posted a schedule on its Web site indicating that it had been delayed.

Microsoft has also varied on the release schedule for Longhorn, the successor to Windows XP. Longhorn is scheduled for release in late 2005 or early 2006, although executives, including Bill Gates, have admitted that it will probably be late, according to reports. At the company's main partner conference earlier this month, several Microsoft executives said that the software would be released in three years' time, suggesting the release date is likely to be in 2006.

The release of Longhorn is important because several other flagship products, such as Visual Studio, Office 12 and Longhorn Server, are tied to the next-generation platform.