The folks at Neowin have been checking the Windows Service Pack Roadmap and noticed an update this Tuesday that preliminarily placed Windows XP SP3 in 1H2008 and Windows Server 2003 SP2 definitely in 1Q2007.
XP SP3 had already been delayed from 2006 to 2007 and this latest move received a poor reception with Vista marketing conspiracy theories abounding. Whatever the Microsoft rationale, the primary utility of a late service pack like SP3 is to roll up all the fixes since the last service pack - in this case, XP SP2 in August 2004 making nearly 4 years of patches. Given the number of monthly security patches Microsoft is generating these days, it’s already quite an annoyance installing an XP SP2 system and then downloading and applying all the patches and this means no relief is in sight. That’s why 3rd parties are creating their own rollups (e.g. AutoPatcher) in the absence of official service packs. With the users creating their own security patches and their own service packs maybe Microsoft ought to consider subcontracting?
As for Windows Server 2003, SP2 availability had been expected this year, but the delay is less annoying since SP1 was released in March 2005, so it’s only about a two year gap. Speaking of which, Bink.nu reports that Beta Refresh 2 of SP2 was released to testers today.