As early as today, Microsoft will begin automatically distributing the latest Windows XP service pack, SP3, to customers via its Automatic Updates mechanism. The software giant first shipped this long-awaited major update in early May after a compatibility issue delayed its originally scheduled late April launch.
"Windows XP SP3 could be released to Automatic Updates as early as Thursday," a Microsoft spokesman said. "As with all service pack releases, Microsoft will carefully monitor the release to ensure that all customers have a good experience."
Unlike XP SP2, which was developed as a major OS release with new security features and other functionality, XP SP3 includes no major new features and is rather an aggregate collection of previously-related hot-fixes. Microsoft did add a few minor new features, however, mostly for corporations still using the aging OS.
With its release to Automatic Updates, SP3 no longer has to be sought out and installed manually. However, the release comes about two weeks after Microsoft ceased mainstream distribution of the OS. The company says it will support XP until 2014, but it will no longer offer the system via retail going forward, and the only way to purchase it with a new PC is to downgrade from Windows Vista or buy a so-called Ultra Low-Cost PC, or ULCPC.