Microsoft on Thursday officially confirmed that there will be a third service pack for the current client version of the Windows OS, Windows XP.

The company declined to release further details, but said that Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) will be available after the shipment of Windows Vista, the next version of the client OS. Visa is scheduled to be available at the end of 2006.

"Right now, Vista is our priority," Michael Burk, product manager for Windows Vista at Microsoft, said in a statement. "We'll have more information to share after Vista ships."

News leaked that there would be a third service pack for Windows XP after published reports last week quoted Microsoft France Technical and Security Director Bernard Ourghanlian as confirming that Windows XP SP3 would be available after Windows Vista. However, as of Wednesday, Microsoft insisted that the company had not decided whether or not to release a third service pack for XP.

Microsoft released the most recent Windows XP service pack, SP2, in August 2004. The service pack was one of the most significant updates to the Windows OS Microsoft ever produced, and it included a host of features to make Windows more secure.

Developers looking for a preview of what may be included in Windows XP SP3 can visit The Hotfix, a software download site and discussion forum that focuses on patches and software updates.

Ethan Allen, the creator and administrator of The Hotfix, said Wednesday he put together the preview pack from software updates he received from an internal Microsoft source. The updates are expected to be part of the next XP service pack but have not been confirmed by Microsoft, he said.

Allen is a Microsoft beta tester and a former contract employee of the Redmond, Washington-based software vendor. He currently works in software assurance for a Bellevue, Washington-based technology company that he declined to name.