Microsoft has announced that service pack 3 for Windows XP has now been released to manufacturing, with a planned release to the web in late April and distribution via auto updates for consumers in early summer.

Windows XP SP3 includes all previously released updates for the operating system, as well as a small number of new additions "that should not significantly change the Windows XP experience".

Chris Keroack the release manager for Windows XP Service Pack says on Microsoft TechNet forums:

"We are also in the final stages of preparing for release to the web (i.e. you!) on April 29th, via Windows Update and the Microsoft Download Center."

"Online documentation for Windows XP SP3, such as Microsoft Knowledge Base articles and the Microsoft TechNet Windows XP TechCenter, will be updated then."

"For customers who use Windows XP at home, Windows XP SP3 Automatic Update distribution for users at home will begin in early summer."

Microsoft will withdraw XP from the market in June 2008, hoping to push adoption of its new OS, Vista, although a pared down version for low-cost UMPC-type laptops will live on.