In yet another sign that Microsoft isn't planning a retirement party for its Windows XP operating system any time soon, the company has released a new service pack for the Windows Vista predecessor.
Windows XP SP3, build 3205, has been released to beta testers and contains more than one thousand patches and hot fixes, according to bloggers at Neosmart.net. The build is available to beta testers for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista SP1 and has been published in English, German and Japanese language editions.
The enhancements include a simplified activation system, a network access protection module that borrows from technology used in Windows Vista, and improved support for cryptographic algorithms.
The latest major update to the operating system, Windows XP SP2, was released more than three years ago.
Last week, Microsoft introduced a new licensing program designed to let users of fake or pirated copies of the business version of Windows XP upgrade to fully licensed copies.
Under the plan, called "Get Genuine Windows Agreement," software resellers can offer to their business customers a volume licensing contract that will allow them to replace fake or "mislicensed" copies of Windows XP Professional with legitimate versions.
With ongoing support for Windows XP, Microsoft appears to be acknowledging the fact that many businesses are sticking with the OS, despite the widely hyped launch of Windows Vista in January. Last month, Microsoft said it would allow personal computer manufacturers to continue selling Windows XP through June 2008. The company originally planned to stop shipping the software to computer makers on Jan. 30.
Many commercial software buyers have railed against Windows Vista's price and lack of compatibility with existing software, and system requirements that exceed the capabilities of PCs more than a couple of years old.
PC makers have responded to such concerns by continuing to push Windows XP, despite the millions of dollars that their partner in Redmond spent promoting Vista. Dell, Lenovo, and Hewlett-Packard have in recent weeks gone as far as offering customers discs that effectively let them "downgrade" their Windows Vista systems to Windows XP.