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Microsoft 'officially' announces XP SP3 public test build

Even though Microsoft began pushing out a public test build of Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 3 the week of December 10, it wasn't until December 18 that the company would acknowledge officially the existence of that build. The public XP SP3 Release Candidate build is now available directly from the Microsoft Download site.

Even though Microsoft began pushing out a public test build of Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 3 the week of December 10, it wasn't until December 18 that the company would acknowledge officially the existence of that build.

On the 18th, Microsoft made the XP SP 3 Release Candidate (RC) build available for download from the Microsoft Download site. Microsoft allowed the same, near-final build to be released last week on several public file sharing sites. When I asked Microsoft December 11 whether the public RC of XP SP3 was available, the company declined to comment.

Yesterday, Microsoft sent me the following statement:

"Today, Windows XP SP3 RC was made available to the public via the Microsoft Download Center. While Windows Vista provides the most advanced security and management capabilities of any Windows Operating System, Windows XP SP3 will ensure PCs running Windows XP will have thelatest set of updates, as well as compatibility with the Network Access Protection functionality of Windows Server 2008. That said, Windows XP SP3 does not bring significant portions of Windows Vista functionality to Windows XP.

"As this is a release candidate, we strongly encourage only those who are comfortable installing pre-release code to download Windows XP SP3."

Did Microsoft also release a different/updated test build of XP SP3 to testers on its private Connect site on the 18th? A couple of Microsoft-watching sites posted that a new build of XP SP3 was made available yesterday. Posters on those sites say that a new XP SP3 build was not released on Connect at all. (I can't check directly myself, as I am not an XP SP3 tester with access to Connect, but the build numbers cited for the private and public builds are both 3264, leading me to believe there was not a private build refresh.)

When I asked a Microsoft spokeswoman whether there was a refresh of the private XP SP3 test build available, she said she wasn't sure.

Update: On December 19, the spokeswoman confirmed that the new build on any references to "refresh" or "update" on the Connect site and the public XP SP3 test build on Microsoft Downloads are referring to the same XP SP3 RC bits.

Sick of all the secrecy around service packs yet? It sure seems counterproductive to me.

I understand that Microsoft is especially reticent to talk about updates for XP, given that XP is getting better press than Vista these days and Microsoft doesn't want to encourage users not hold off on Vista by talking up how the company is improving XP. But a little translucency on service packs would go a long way to helping users plan, in my opinion. What do you think?