Microsoft ships new XP SP3 code to testers

But there's no word on final delivery date for the aged OS

Following the announcement that Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) had been shipped to manufacturing, Microsoft late last week confirmed that it seeded another build of Windows XP SP3 to a closed-set group of testers.

"Yesterday, we released Windows XP SP3 RC 2 to private beta testers," a Microsoft spokeswoman said. "This release catches the build up on previously released hotfixes and responds to critical feedback from previous betas."

The last time Microsoft sent XP SP3 to the invite-only group of some 15,000 testers was two weeks ago, when it issued what it dubbed RC Refresh 2. The general public has seen only one version of XP's final service pack; Microsoft released that in December 2007.

However, Windows XP SP3's ship date remained as elusive as ever. "We are targeting 1H [first half ] 2008 for the release of XP SP3 RTM, though our timing will always be based on customer feedback as a first priority," the spokeswoman added.

On Monday, Microsoft said Vista SP1, a service pack that has received far more attention from the company and its public relations people, was ready to release to manufacturing (RTM). However, rather than immediately offer it to users, or even IT pros and developers who subscriber to TechNet and MSDN, Microsoft will hold the code until next month to resolve device driver issues.

One TechNet subscriber warned Microsoft not to duplicate that decision when XP SP3 moved to RTM. "Try doing this for XP SP3 and I'll say bye-bye to Windows forever," threatened a user identified only as "someone."

The decision to delay releasing the SP1 RTM code to developers has apparently infuriated many.

The next major milestone for Windows XP after SP3 ships is June 30, when the nearly seven-year-old operating system is slated to fall off the OEM and retail availability list.

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