The third and final service pack for Windows XP could be available by the end of April, according to a leaked Microsoft schedule.
The alleged schedule for the release of XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) — obtained by the Neowin website — shows that manufacturers and volume licence customers will get their hands on the upgrade on 21 April. Other XP users will get access to the pack on 28 April via Microsoft Update, Windows Update and the Download Center website.
Anyone who has not installed the service pack will be forced to do so on 10 June by automatic update, according to the roadmap.
XP SP3 is effectively a roll-up of the updates and fixes released by Microsoft since SP2 came out 2004.
Windows XP has been around since 2001, and was replaced at the end of 2006 by Windows Vista. However, Vista has been poorly received by many users, and numerous petitions are currently circulating the internet, pleading with Microsoft to continue allowing retail sales of XP past its stated cut-off date of mid-2008.
Microsoft will continue to allow XP to be sold on some computers, but only low-cost subnotebooks such as the Asus Eee, which do not have the processing power to handle Vista's requirements.
Responding to the news of the leaked schedule on Wednesday, Microsoft issued a statement saying: "We expect Windows XP SP3 to be available in 1H 2008, provided it meets our quality bar for release."