Windows XP SP3 is available for download…provided you have a broadband connection, or a lot of patience.
This is the second major OS update that Microsoft has released to the public early in just about as many weeks. Like Vista SP1, however, users need to be aware that this is prerelease software, and not the final code. That won’t come out for quite some time yet.
According to Microsoft, XP SP3 RC is only going to be available through the Microsoft Download Center. Windows XP SP3 also isn’t going to be available in its final version any time soon. Current plans have the software finished and available via Microsoft Update during the first half of 2008.
Currently, the software weighs in at 366MB. The final version of the software is only expected to total 70MB. That’s quite a bit smaller. So the current RC likely has a lot of unoptimized, and/or debug code in it. Casual or inexperienced users are not encouraged to download and install this right now. They should wait until the final version of the software is released, again, sometime before July 2008.
While MS is downplaying the significance of the update, a performance testing software developer out of Florida is saying that XP3 SP3 is not only 10% faster than XP SP2 (an ok performance increase); but it is more than twice as fast as Vista SP1. Microsoft called that report erroneous. You’ll need to decide for yourself if and when you download and install the update.
Interestingly enough, one of the biggest problems Vista has right now is Windows XP. Its Vista’s biggest rival according to Forrester Research. Many businesses, worldwide, are delaying Vista upgrades due to the huge change to the user interface, compatibility issues, etc. Vista is almost completely different than XP; and I truly believe that many companies will suffer huge productivity hits if and when they finally do move to Vista. XP has been "out there" for more than 6 years, and people are used to working on that platform. Vista changes the way you work, and many non-techies will have trouble getting around after the upgrade.