Windows XP users will have to wait until next year for Service Pack 3 after all, Microsoft Corp. said Thursday as it claimed a recent press release saying otherwise was a mistake.

Windows XP SP3, the next major roll-up of security patches and bug fixes for the still-popular operating system, was mentioned twice in a Microsoft statement posted from InterOp on Monday. The release, which touted interoperable protocol efforts between Juniper Networks Inc. and Microsoft, said at one point that "Windows Vista supports this protocol today and Windows Server 2008 and Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) will support it as well later this year."

Several bloggers and some news outlets took this to mean that Microsoft had changed the launch date for SP3 from its official timetable of the first half of 2008.

Not so, said Microsoft Thursday. "While we're still not talking specifics, I do want to point you to the following link as an accurate timeline for our preliminary plans for SP3," a spokeswoman said. "Again, these are just preliminary and we will share more at a later date. Please do reference this link for current timing and disregard the release from InterOp, which is inaccurate."

The believability of the new, albeit wrong, date for SP3 hinged on the impatience of Windows XP users, who first faced a gap of nearly four years between Service Packs when Microsoft announced a delay of SP3 last October. By Microsoft's official schedule, Windows XP SP3 will appear more than a year after the retail release of Vista.

Before this week's snafu, the most buzz a Microsoft service pack attracted was when the company sent a cease-and-desist letter to a Web site owner who had posted a collection of hot fixes he touted as part of Windows Vista Service Pack 1.