No XP Service Pack 3 for You Today

In a move a little like Lucy pulling the ball out of the path of Charlie Brown’s lunging foot at the last moment, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) withdrew plans to make Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) publicly available today.

The reason? The company ran into compatibility issues with Windows XP customers who also run Microsoft’s Dynamics Retail Management System (RMS), a software package for running retail stores.

“In order to make sure customers have the best possible experience we have decided to delay releasing Windows XP SP3 to Windows Update and Microsoft Download Center,” a Microsoft spokesperson told in an e-mail.

Windows Vista SP1, which began automatic downloads last week, has the same problem. However, Microsoft is only disabling the auto updates capability – users can still manually download SP1.

“We plan to put filtering in place shortly to prevent Windows Update from offering both service packs to systems running Microsoft Dynamics RMS [and] once filtering is in place, we expect to release Windows XP SP3 to Windows Update and Download Center,” the spokesperson added.

At that point, Vista SP1 will also resume automatic downloads.

The XP update has some XP fans huffing, and others taking the downgrade path to stay on XP. Some users are so enthralled with XP that they’re even purchasing Vista machines with downgrade rights to install and run XP.

SP3 will be the final service pack for XP – unless customer pressure changes the company’s mind – and contains all the patches and hotfixes released since XP first shipped in 2001. It also adds a new feature, which is already present in Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008, called “Network Access Protection,” or NAP . The technology quarantines new PCs on the network until they are checked and remediated to assure they meet the customer company’s security criteria.

SP3 was released to volume customers last week. Later in the week, the company also let subscribers to Microsoft MSDN and TechNet services begin to download the update.

However, typically, the public availability of any long-awaited service pack really causes demand to spike, so there are bound to be growls from some frustrated users.

One analyst finds himself a little wistful that XP is on the road to replacement.

“It’s too bad that they’re retiring XP because it’s already great with just SP2, and with SP3 it’ll be even better,” Roger Kay, president of analysis firm Endpoint Technologies, told

For most affected users, however, the delay doesn’t appear to be a real hardship. “My sense is that it’s not a big deal [because] Microsoft will get it up in a few days,” Kay added. Neither are most Vista users inconvenienced because SP1 is still available for manual download, he pointed out.

For those who just can’t wait, some download sites around the internet, including FileForum, are offering XP3 for download – possibly obtained through an MSDN or TechNet subscriber.

Microsoft’s spokesperson tried to discourage users who may be tempted to go that route.

“Since we cannot confirm the source of every link that third parties provide, our recommendation is that customers wait until we’ve published Windows XP SP3 to Windows Update and the Download Center.”

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