The release date for Windows XP's next service pack has slipped to the first half of 2008.

Windows XP SP3, which will include security patches, bug fixes and other housekeeping updates as well as some new add-ons, was until recently scheduled for release sometime during 2007

But Microsoft updated the information about the service pack on its website last week, and SP3 now is planned for a 2008 release for both the Home and Professional editions of Windows XP. Microsoft noted that even the new date "is preliminary".

If Microsoft does meet its new schedule, SP3 will arrive almost four years after the company released Windows XP SP2 in August 2004. In addition, the new service pack would become available more than a year after the release of XP's successor, Windows Vista, which is due later this year for corporate users and in early 2007 for home users. Typical intervals between service pack releases for Windows are one to two years.

An unofficial preview of SP3 surfaced on the Web a year ago, although at that time, Microsoft said it still hadn't even decided whether it would release another service pack for XP. The company has also moved back the release date of SP2 for Windows Server 2003 from late this year to the first quarter of next year.

Reaction on the Web varies from those that say the delay is a natural outgrowth of Microsoft focusing its resources on last-minute Vista development to those that claim it is an attempt to push customers running XP to upgrade to Vista.