For Windows XP users, the wait is nearly over.
As predicted last week, Microsoft announced Monday that Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) has been released to manufacturing (RTM) and is available to OEMs and enterprise customers.
Meanwhile, downloads of XP SP3 will begin next Tuesday on April 29, also as expected.
Chris Keroack, release manager for XP SP3 in the Windows Serviceability group, confirmed the news on the SP3 forum on Microsoft's TechNet site.
The predictions last week were made by Windows community site Neowin, which claimed to have gotten hold of a genuine copy of SP3's schedule.
That document proved to be dead-on for both April 21, the RTM date, and April 29 -- the date that Keroack has confirmed Windows Update and the Microsoft Download Center would begin offering SP3 for download.
One date remains in question, however. Keroack's statement points to XP SP3's release to home users via Automatic Updates in "early summer" -- technically June 21 or later -- while Neowin has said its document has the date pegged at June 10.
Many users -- particularly those with older systems that they don't feel compelled to upgrade or replace -- have been waiting impatiently for SP3 as it wound its way through the development and testing process.
In fact, continued demand for XP was behind Microsoft's decision in September to extend its commercial availability by five months until June 2008.
Like most service packs, SP3 provides a convenient vehicle to roll up all of the bug patches delivered since the last service pack, XP SP2, which shipped in August 2004.
It also adds one important new feature. SP3 provides support for Network Access Protection -- a technology for quarantining untrusted PCs from the network. The technology also comes in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista.