As well as the news that Microsoft is prepping a beta of Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista, we've also heard there will be a similarly imminent beta of the next major update for Windows XP - Service Pack 3.

The last Service Pack for Windows XP was a truly major release with several new features implemented such as the Windows Security Center and new networking wizards.

However it seems that SP3 won't be anywhere near as comprehensive, serving only as a 'roll-up' of previously released fixes. While this might seem to be another case of Microsoft hot air, it will provide a new point of reference for the operating system, released six years ago.

Microsoft will be able to tell XP users to ensure they are up-to-date by installing SP3, rather than saying SP2 and hoping that users have the remainder of the updates.

The development will mirror that of Vista's Service Pack 1, with a beta release next month and widespread availability early next year.