I've been running Windows XP3 since release candidate 1 was made available to TechNet members on December 3, 2007. And you know what? It just works.
I reviewed XP SP3 RC1, not long after it was out. I was impressed. This version of XP is faster, has improved security and, in the months since then, it has proven to be the most stable version of Windows I've ever had the pleasure of using on a desktop.
I have now switched my last copy of XP running on native hardware to SP3, and all my other copies, which live on in Linux desktops thanks to VirtualBox and VMware Player, are also running XP SP3. This was a no-brainer. XP SP3, even though it has not been released yet and is now up to XP SP3 RC2 Refresh (Read RC3 for all practical purposes), is just better.
So, why can't you have it? That's a darn good question.
Vista SP1, which is available to all now, is still more of a pain than a useful operating system. I have, as I wrote recently, finally gotten Vista to run properly on one PC after 16 months. The longest it took me to get XP SP3 to run properly was two hours.
I also ran XP SP3 on that same system which now has a working copy of Vista SP1 on it. Guess what? XP ran rings around Vista. It's faster, it works perfectly with all my applications, it's more stable, and it didn't require me to dig into the system registry to work on my network.
Just Better than Vista
And, there, my friends, is why Microsoft has delayed getting XP SP3 into people's hands. Microsoft would like to believe that some companies want to coordinate a roll-out of Vista SP1 with Server 2008, but I think they're nuts. What company, whose CEO isn't in the looney bin, is going to move to a new desktop operating system <i>and</i> a new server operating system at the same time?
No, the real reason is that Microsoft knows that once people compare XP SP3 with Vista SP1, they're not going to move to Vista. XP was already better than Vista, SP3 just makes it even clearer that XP, and not Vista, is really Microsoft's best desktop.
As anyone who follows my work knows, I'm no fan of Microsoft, but XP SP3 really is a good system. So, while I think many of you should be considering the Linux desktop, at the same time, if you're not going to move to Mac OS X or Linux, XP SP3 is what you should be moving to.
XP SP3 is simply the best version of Windows I've ever seen. I'm not the only one who sees it that way. I keep hearing from friends in enterprises who have also deployed SP3 on their test systems and they want to know when Microsoft will make it available so they can immediately start deploying it.
These aren't the kind of people who are chasing the brightest, newest technology. They just recognize, as I do, that Windows XP SP3 is, already, an exceptionally strong desktop operating system.
So come on Microsoft. Delaying XP SP3 isn't going to help get Vista SP1 off the ground. Listen to your customers and get it out to us. Or perhaps I should say is, "No, no, delay it please! Every day you wait is another day for Novell, Red Hat and Apple to convince your Windows customers that there are better alternatives."