“We are also in the final stages of preparing for release to the web (i.e. you!) on April 29th, via Windows Update and the Microsoft Download Center,” said Keroack last Monday. “Online documentation for Windows XP SP3, such as Microsoft Knowledge Base articles and the Microsoft TechNet Windows XP TechCenter, will be updated then. For customers who use Windows XP at home, Windows XP SP3 Automatic Update distribution for users at home will begin in early summer.”
It appears that the time has come and everyone can now download SP3. A link to the 316MB service pack was posted on BetaNews yesterday afternoon. Although Microsoft isn't yet hosting a download page for SP3, the download links directly back to Windows Update.
For those that haven't been keeping up with the latest SP3 updates, the service pack includes roughly 1,100 hotfixes/patches and new features like Network Access Protection and Black Hole Router Detection.
SP3 will also give users even more incentive to stick with the venerable operating system which has soldiered on since late 2001. Many consumers and businesses have clung to the operating system despite the fact that Microsoft has heavily pushed its newer Windows Vista operating system.
Microsoft is hoping for a swift switchover to Windows Vista and has already announced a June 30 end-of-life date for Windows XP (with the exception of Windows XP Home for ultra-low-cost PCs. Some PC manufacturers, however, are using other methods to extend the availability of Windows XP for its customers.