And I quote: “To aid IT professionals in planning and testing for the deployment of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), Microsoft is making available this preview, based on Release Candidate 2 (RC2) of SP2.“
I've been running Release Candidate 1 for quite some time now, and I'm extremely pleased. It is definitely locked down by default, but it doesn't seem to get in the way. When it detects unfamiliar incoming network traffic, I get a nice pop-up dialog that gives me some simple and straightforward options. Although the firewall is fantastic, I really like the pop-up blocker for Internet Explorer. I used to run Ad-aware or Spybot Search and Destroy every month or so to clean out the spyware, but since I've installed SP2, I haven't had a single instance of spyware installed on my machine. I'm not sure if I'm a good representative sample, but so far, I like what I'm seeing.
For those that fear that it might lock down your machine too much, don't worry. I do Visual Studio .NET development on all of my machines, run Windows Messenger, do file sharing, participate in LiveMeetings, download Torrents, use FTP, and pretty much everything else you can imagine, and I haven't had to make any abnormal configuration changes to get them to work.
So what are you waiting for? Get it here.