Despite Microsoft's repeated denials, the company will indeed release an interim version of Windows XP that will bridge the gap between the initial XP release and Windows Longhorn, which is currently due in late 2005 at the earliest. The interim XP version will ship as a new retail product that replaces existing retail boxed copies of XP and as a set of updates, called XP Reloaded, that existing XP users can install separately. According to sources I contacted this morning, XP Reloaded will include all the features from XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), which is due by midyear, as well as a host of other unique features, including Windows Media Player (WMP) 10.
Other details about XP Reloaded are unknown at this time, although the update kit apparently will include a Web-based installer application that will let users choose optional features. Reports about an XP Version 2 release first cropped up more than a year ago, but Microsoft officials repeatedly denied that the company planned to issue such a release. In early 2004, when the company revealed the new security features that XP SP2 will include, the rumors resurfaced. But the XP Reloaded OS refresh will clearly include a lot more than security updates, possibly in a bid to revive consumer excitement about XP while Microsoft preps the ever-delayed Longhorn release.