Will it ever ship? As the final version of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) teetered on the edge of completion yesterday, Microsoft abruptly pulled back the release for further testing, throwing the massive security update off schedule yet again. However, company sources say that this most recent delay will be a short one. The release, they say, is "imminent."
  
According to a range of internal documentation I viewed this week, XP SP2 was to have been released to manufacturing (RTM) yesterday, with the first Web-based downloads going out to the public today. Instead, XP SP2 should be available within a week, although it could be months before new PCs with the service pack are publicly available.
  
"SP2 will RTM \[August 4\] and be posted on TechNet and MSDN sites for IT professionals and developers," one now out-of-date document said. "We will phase in the distribution of Service Pack 2 by prioritizing \[Automatic Updates\] as the primary delivery vehicle for most end users." The company hopes to quickly reach more than 100 million people through Automatic Updates, I've been told.
  
Another document I viewed corroborated the planned August 4 RTM date and noted that the SP2 Full Network Install Package would have been available on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and the Microsoft Download Center beginning today. The "unlimited release" to Microsoft Windows Update was to have started Wednesday, August 25.
  
Now those plans appear to be in disarray. The Microsoft spokesperson who contacted me last night told me that Microsoft has delayed XP SP2 again. And Microsoft Lead Product Manager Greg Sullivan told the "Seattle Post-Intelligencer" that it could take PC makers 6 to 8 weeks to ship new PCs that include the SP2 code. 
  
The size of the SP2 download will depend on how you obtain it. Automatic Updates and Windows Update downloads can be much smaller, depending on the number of patches you've already installed. Microsoft notes that the maximum download size is about 95MB for XP Home Edition and 110MB for XP Professional Edition.