SP3 for Windows XP due next month

Microsoft will release Windows XP Service Pack 3 during the second half of April, according to a report from a website that has correctly predicted recent Windows ship dates.

TechARP.com, a Malaysian website that nailed Vista SP1's release-to-manufacturing (RTM) date last month as well as its release to Windows Update last week, said that Microsoft will wrap up work on XP's third and final service pack next month.

The site pegged RTM for Windows XP SP3 as "second half of April 2008" for seven languages, with a follow-on RTM of the remaining supported languages "approximately 21 days" later.

By TechARP's account, Microsoft will first finish work on the English, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Spanish versions of the service pack.

Microsoft declined comment, other than to repeat an earlier statement about the service pack's timing. "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," a spokeswoman said in an email.

The last time Microsoft made a public move with Windows XP SP3 was a little over a month ago, when it posted a second release candidate to Windows Update.

About two weeks ago, however, XP SP3 caused a minor stir when what was purportedly the newest build leaked to the Internet and hit BitTorrent search sites such as The Pirate Bay.

Although Microsoft initially refused comment, last week it acknowledged that the build - designated 5503 - was real and had been released to a portion of the invitation-only beta test group.

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It also warned users away from any download. "This build was not intended for public release and anyone who has that build and is not part of the private beta is working with bits that Microsoft can't verify," a company spokeswoman said in an email last week. "It's possible the bits may have been modified with malware or other bad code that Microsoft hasn't tested."

Multiple versions of XP SP3 build 5503, including English- and Russian-language editions, are available via BitTorrent.

Once SP3 ships, the next major milestones for Windows XP are 30 June, when the popular operating system is slated to fall off the reseller and retail availability list, and 31 January 2009, when it will be taken out of all distribution channels, including system builders.

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