It seems doubtful that the reason Microsoft hasn't released the final SP3 for Windows XP this week is because it "wants the focus to remain on Vista SP1," as this Beta News piece says. Nevertheless, users have been surprised by the delay. Instead, Redmond this week put out a refresh of SP3 Release Candidate 2 from February.
It's no surprise that the XP masses are a bit jumpy. The end of XP as we know it is fast approaching, with no more stays of execution imminent. OEMs are to stop selling machines with XP this June, retailers keep trucking until January 2009, and mainstream support for the OS ends in a year. See this detailed timeline from Computerworld for the current dates (which could change again before it's all said and done).
With Microsoft saying it will have the final SP3 released in the first half of 2008, that could coincide with the first significant date in the phasing out of XP: June 30, when those pre-installs end. InformationWeek calls the situation a Catch-22 for Microsoft, in that the stronger and more robust XP is -- and it's already won that battle with Vista -- the less users and enterprises will want to replace it with Vista. And they already don't want to. Plus, that darned Vista SP1 brought up lots of new problems for a significant number of users. But then Microsoft offered special support ...
Over at XP Love Central, aka InfoWorld, Randall C. Kennedy blogs that it's not a theory that Microsoft is trying to screw over its loyal XP users with this delay; it's reality. Beta users can see no reason the release shouldn't be ready right now, and Microsoft's full attention is on salvaging Vista, Kennedy says.
Or maybe it's just certain XP users getting the screwing. News.com's Ina Fried writes that you can pretty much bet that Microsoft is not going to roll over and let Linux take any more of the low-cost laptop market when it could easily hold onto its share with XP. And in emerging markets, both stripped-down and full versions of XP don't appear to be candidates to be phased out. If Fried is right, look for upmarket buyers to be doing some downmarket shopping, XP style.