In a post to Microsoft's TechNet Forum minutes ago, a Microsoft official announced that Service Pack 3 of Windows XP has released to its manufacturing channels, in order to reach OEM and enterprise customers by the late-April deadline.
Microsoft's XP SP3 release manager Chris Keroack wrote that Web availability of the final service pack for Windows XP will begin on April 29, through the Microsoft Download Center. Confirming many users' suspicions, the company will wait until "early summer," Keroack stated, before enabling SP3 to be downloaded through Automatic Updates, perhaps in light of the company's recent debacle with Windows Vista SP1.
The news effectively confirms the information from a leaked memo that made its way around enthusiasts' blogs last week, which clearly stated April 29 would be the initial release date. At the time of the leak, Microsoft spokespersons had officially declined to confirm that date, or the authenticity of the memo, to BetaNews.
The key features of Service Pack 3 include Microsoft's updated Management Console 3.0, which appears in Windows Server 2008 and Vista; the new Windows Installer 3.1; an update to Wi-Fi protected access; and support for Network Access Protection, the "health checking" component used by Windows Server 2008. With that latter component, a network server can check to make sure certain upgrades and security features are in place for XP-based clients as well as Vista-based, before those clients can be allowed to log onto the network.