Microsoft has officially confirmed that Windows XP SP3 will be released after Windows Vista sometime in 2006. Windows XP Service Pack 3 (XP SP3) will be a regular customer fix and not a major upgrade. SP3 will contain significant security enhancements, in addition to stability and performance improvements.
Mr. Ballmer made some interesting remarks: Microsoft might indeed ship SP3 for Windows XP before Longhorn comes out. Also, upcoming version 7 of Internet Explorer should have anti-phishing technology built-in. [longhorn=Windows Vista]
IE7 will only be available to users running XP SP2. I hope that build Windows Media Player WMP 10 and Windows Movie Maker into XP SP3 itself.
The most important part of SP2 is an new firewall program to stop break-ins by network worms such as Blaster. Unlike XP's earlier firewall, this one is turned on automatically and protects every connection on a computer -- even if you already have another firewall active. It also watches what your programs do; if one wants to open its own channel of communication with the Internet, you'll need to approve this action.
Microsoft has come under increased pressure from Google and other competitors, which have won customers by putting out products more quickly. This re-org at Seattle may be one of the several reasosn to to delay shipment of XP SP3 in favor of Windows Vista.
Download Windows XP SP1
Download Windows XP SP2
Download Windows XP SP3
The above is a torrent version of XPSP3 hotfix pack, that has the complete collection of pre-SP3 hotfixes is however available. Microsoft is advising users not to download the windows xp sp3 package.
The next Windows XP update could be a collection of already released patches, known as an Update Rollup, similar to what the company did with Windows 2000. Many patches posted on Microsoft.com do note that they're slated to be part of Service Pack 3.
Microsoft have recently committed to release Windows XP SP3 - Microsoft Security Bulletin MS04-044 explicity says "The update for this issue will be included in Windows XP Service Pack 3." If you have your wishlist for what you would like to be included in XP SP3, write to the Channel 9 forum.