Microsoft Confirms Windows XP SP3

The second service pack (SP 2) for Windows XP was a watershed release. Dropped in August 2004, it addressed a number of issues on the security side: turning Windows Firewall on, rather than off, by default, and including a pop-up blocker in Internet Explorer were two of the major changes. Those upgrades made a big difference in the public perception of XP, and sales, which had been steady, took off.

As analyst Matt Rosoff of independent research company Directions on Microsoft said for a recent story, "People came on board with XP SP2. It's efficient; all the drivers are there; it works as it's supposed to work. It's been out five years now."

Indeed, it works so well that it's cutting into Windows Vista business. Given XP's continued strength, it makes sense that Microsoft continues to support it, and it appears it will do so with SP3, which is scheduled to make an appearance in the first half of next year.

Unfortunately, Microsoft is releasing few details about the service pack. According to an e-mail from a Microsoft spokesperson, "We're currently planning to deliver SP3 for Windows XP in the first half of CY2008. This date is preliminary, and we don't have any more details to share at this time."

Several questions to Microsoft were left unanswered, including any timeline for beta releases, either public or private; new features, fixes or upgrades; and whether SP3 is a response to XP's continued market strength.

However, in a May 21 press release about security protocols, Microsoft anticipated SP3 availability in 2007. "Microsoft is announcing that Windows Vista supports this protocol today and Windows Server 2008 and Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) will support it as well later this year."

Redmond magazine columnist Mary Jo Foley reported recently that Microsoft called that statement a "typo," giving new meaning to the word.

XP SP1 was released in September 2002, making it less than a year from the product's launch, and slightly less than two years between SP1 and SP2. If SP3 meets the current launch window, it will be approximately four years between the latest service packs.

There has been talk off and on over the past several years about Microsoft killing SP3. But given the latest pronouncements, and XP's surprising staying power, it seems clear that SP3 will become a reality. The only question now is when.

About the Author

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at [email protected].