Signs point to imminent arrival of Windows XP SP3

Signs coming from Microsoft indicate that Windows XP Service Pack 3 is finally ready for public release. But is the company just playing an April fools joke?

The long-awaited update for the aging operating system (now over 6 and a half years old) was expected to arrive last month, but instead Microsoft released a "Refresh" of Release Candidate 2, asking testers to try out a new Windows Update mechanism for delivering the SP3 bits.

On Tuesday April 1, Microsoft posted an "Overview" whitepaper of Windows XP SP3 on the company's Download Center. The document summarizes the changes in the service pack, and notes that SP3 does not contain Internet Explorer 7. It also points users to download SP3 via the Download Center or Windows Update.

Further, Microsoft has updated its Support Lifecycle page for Windows XP, noting that SP3's general availability date is March 31, 2008.

Microsoft has never set a specific date for the release of SP3, but its development largely coincided with Windows Vista SP1, and many expected it to appear soon after. However, some industry watchers speculate that Microsoft is in no rush to deliver XP SP3, as the update could discourage people from migrating to Vista.

Rumors have already begun to circulate this week that Microsoft is considering extending support for Windows XP on low-cost laptops including the Asus Eee PC, which don't have enough power to run Windows Vista.

The Redmond company has remained mum on the issue, but a "Save Windows XP" petition has been signed by over 100,000 people. The petition asks Microsoft to continue selling XP through OEMs and retail channels beyond June 30.

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