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Microsoft is planning its third Windows XP Service Pack (SP) for release in 2007, three years after the last SP, in order to concentrate engineering resources on Windows Vista.

The company has set a preliminary release date of the second-half of 2007 for SP 3, for use with Windows XP Home and Professional editions, meaning that the pack will ship after the release of Windows Vista, which is due in the second-half of 2006.

Previously, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, speaking at last year's National Security Day Sweden event, reportedly said Microsoft might ship SP 3 before Longhorn - the well-worn codename given to Windows Vista until last year.

Microsoft reportedly said Tuesday it was making the change to prioritize Windows Vista. The company was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

The company last released an SP for Windows XP in 2004. SP 2 was an all-encompassing response to surging spam, phising and worms that saw Microsoft introduce a so-called security center to improve the firewall and ensure a PC's virus protection is up-to-date and a pop-up blocker for Internet Explorer.

Chief software architect Bill Gates called SP 2 a "significant step" in protecting PCs from "increasingly sophisticated attacks." Ironically, the rush to develop, test and release SP 2 helped significantly delay the release of Windows Vista.®

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