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Microsoft inches closer to XP update

Software maker releases test version of XP Service Pack 3 to 15,000 beta testers, with broader test version to be issued at "a later date."

Microsoft late last week released an updated test version of Windows XP Service Pack 3 to about 15,000 beta testers. The update, the third such service pack for the six-year-old operating system is due out in final form in the first half of next year. The company said before its final release it expects to issue a public test version of the service pack, though it did not provide more specificity than at "a later date."

"We are targeting (the first half of) 2008 for the release of XP SP3," Microsoft said, "though our timing will always be based on customer feedback as a first priority."

Speculation over the timing and features of the release has been going on for years. The release was initially expected as early as 2006, but was pushed out as Vista work remained the priority for the Windows team. The first service pack for Windows Vista is also due out in the first half of next year.

Both updates are focused largely on things such as bug fixes and performance improvements rather than new features.