You can now download an installation package of Service Pack 3 RC1 for Windows XP. It is a bit strange that it is only available thru download sites. Microsoft also released a white paper discussing the new features of Service Pack 3 for Windows XP. If you compare this document with the information that Microsoft just released about Service Pack 1 for Vista, then it becomes more than obvious that Windows XP is a dying operating system from Microsoft's perspective.
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It is not just that the amount of information on this tiny paper about XP SP3 is much less than the five documents about Vista SP1. You can also read this between the lines:
Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) includes all previously released Windows XP updates, including security updates and hotfixes. It also includes select out-of-band releases, and a small number of new enhancements, which do not significantly change customers' experience with the operating system.
The number of new features is indeed negligible. The support for Network Access Protection (NAP) is the only noteworthy enhancement. Microsoft is forced to add this feature because NAP in Windows Server 2008 would be useless otherwise. Network access control only makes sense if all computers in your network support it.
It is obvious that Microsoft has no more interest in enhancing XP. I suppose, they already regret improving the security in XP with Service Pack 2. Those customers who say that XP is enough for running Word and Internet Explorer would probably have a different opinion if they read on a weekly basis about its serious security holes. It seems Windows security is not really a topic anymore. The fact that Vista offers much better security than XP SP2 is often not even mentioned in discussions about the better OS.
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So Microsoft's only option is to dry out XP. In the future, new features will only be added to Vista and not to XP, anymore. This will become more obvious when Windows Server 2008 comes out. Many new features in Windows Server 2008 make sense only if you have Vista in your network.