Redmond (WA) - The third service pack for Microsoft's Windows XP operating system has reached the critical "release to manufacturing" phase, allowing computer makers and high-profile buyers/consumers to access the final version of what could be the last major XP update.
"Windows XP SP3 bits are now working their way through our manufacturing channels to be available to OEM and Enterprise customers," said said Windows release manager Chris Keroack on Microsoft's official Technet forums.
"We are also in the final stages of preparing for release to the web (i.e. you!) on April 29th, via Windows Update and the Microsoft Download Center," he added.
XP is the longest-running operating system for any computer platform, and with an unanticipated resistance toward Windows Vista, it is experiencing a longer shelf life than Microsoft had planned. However, a fourth XP service pack is not currently expected.
According to the Windows XP SP3 White Paper, SP3 includes "all previously released Windows XP updates, including security updates and hotfixes, and select out-of-band releases. For example, the service pack includes functionality previously released as updates, such as Microsoft Management Console (MMC) 3.0 and the Microsoft Core XML Services 6.0 (MSXML6)."
Microsoft is reportedly not adding significant functionality from newer versions of Windows with this service pack, and it does not include Internet Explorer 7. The one notable exception is an upgrade to Network Access Protection (NAP), which helps organizations that use XP take advantage of some new features in the Windows Server 2008 operating system.