Testers get Windows XP Service Pack 3 Release Candidate build

Microsoft has begun rolling out to testers a near-final Release Candidate (RC) build of Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 3. Meanwhile, some testers are questioning whether Vista SP1 will remedy some of the performance problems they've been encountering with Vista.

Microsoft has begun rolling out to testers a near-final Release Candidate (RC) build of Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 3.

Testers get Windows XP Service Pack 3 Release Candidate build
Testers said they began pulling down the bits from Microsoft's private download site on November 18.

Testers said the new XP SP3 build is designated as a "Release Candidate," not a preview of a release candidate (as was the case with the new Windows Vista SP1 RC release that went to 15,000 testers last week.

So far, no word back from Microsoft as to how many SP3 testers will be allowed to download the new XP SP3 test build. Last time Microsoft made an XP SP3 test build available -- a private build Microsoft delivered in early October -- it released the XP SP3 test bits to the same 12,000 folks testing Windows XP SP1.

Looks like my guess on who and how many got the build was good. Here's a status update from a Microsoft spokesman on the afternoon of November 19:

"Late last week, Windows XP SP3 was made available to about 15,000 beta testers. A broader beta will be available at a later date. We are targeting 1H 2008 for the release of XP SP3 RTM, though our timing will always be based on customer feedback as a first priority."

Microsoft previously said it plans to release the final version of XP SP3 in the first half of 2008. The final Vista SP1 release is slated to hit in the first calendar quarter of 2008. I'm starting to wonder whether XP SP3 might be released ahead of Vista SP1. "First half" could also mean "first quarter." From a pure marketing standpoint, I'd think Microsoft would want Vista SP1 out there ahead of XP SP3, so as not to give users one more reason not to move to Vista.

Meanwhile, speaking of SP1, some testers are beginning to weigh in publicly about Microsoft's latest Vista SP1 test build. And while the verdicts are hardly unanimous -- a number of testers are wondering aloud whether SP1 will address Vista performance issues to the extent they hoped.

Microsoft has been positioning SP1, due out in early 2008, as a catch-all build, delivering in one package the various performance, reliability, stability and security fixes that it has been pushing out via Windows Update since Vista was released to manufacturing last fall. A number of the updates included in the test builds of Vista SP1 have been focused on fixing battery life, start up and shutdown time, etc.

Performance is a tough criteria to evaluate, given that every tester has different applications loaded on their machines, not to mention different hardware makes and models. So if you look in the comments of some of the blog posts on SP1 and performance, some testers say they are seeing noticeable Vista performance improvements once they load the SP1 test code.

Anyone out there testing the new XP SP3 RC build and/or the Vista SP1 RC preview? What's your experience been so far?

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