XP SP3 delayed... again

"Compatibility issues" between Microsoft XP and the software maker's Dynamics applications has held up the outgoing operating system's last service pack release.

Microsoft has blamed "compatibility issues" between the third and last service pack (SP3) of its outgoing, Windows XP operating system (OS) and one of its retail management applications for another delay before its general release late yesterday.

The third major update to the OS, which has been superceded by the Vista OS, was expected to be made available through its software update service on Tuesday, after it said last week it had completed final development tweaks. Reports had previously suggested the pack was set for release around 21 April.

But interoperability problems discovered in the last few days between XP SP3, as well as Vista's first service pack (SP1), and its Microsoft Dynamics retail management system (RMS) application - designed to handle midsized retailers' operations - has led the company to delay the XP pack yet again.

Microsoft initially delayed developing XP SP3 as long ago as October 2006, when it put its schedule back to devote time to developing Vista, which was subsequently released at the beginning of last year.

Yesterday, the vendor said it had taken steps to ensure its Windows Update and Download Centre to make sure they would not deliver both service packs to Dynamics RMS users. Once these filters are in place XP SP3 can be automatically downloaded by other XP users.

Meanwhile, Microsoft cautioned users of the retail application to avoid manually installing both XP SP3 and Vista SP1 and advised them to visit its TechNet online support resource or to contact its customer support services directly. But it would not say when the automatic update filters would be put in place, other than that the problem was being investigated and would "be available as soon as that process is complete".

XP SP3 includes new networking, security and set-up functionality, among other development changes designed to improve the running of the OS.

The pack is particularly key in light of the fact that XP has also most recently been the subject of rumours suggesting Microsoft may extend the sale of the OS beyond its stated, 30 June 2008 deadline in response to users' reluctance to upgrade to Vista. PC manufacturers have continued to sell the OS through a "downgrade" loophole, while the software maker also confirmed it would continue to sell XP Home on ultra-low-cost PCs, like the Asus Eee.

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