Microsoft will not integrate Internet Explorer 7 into the final version of Windows XP Service Pack 3. The users who have already been involved in the testing process of the third and final service pack for Windows XP have already got a taste of what the refresh will bring to the table. Released in mid July alongside Windows Vista SP1, XP SP3 has quickly evolved through the development milestones from the initial pre-beta release to the quasi-public pre-Release Candidate Build 3244, available for download via this link. In this context, if you have already deployed the service pack on a copy of XP running a previous version of the Internet Explorer browser, you might have noticed that XP SP3 does not offer an automatic upgrade to IE7.
This is valid for all testing versions of XP SP3 and will also be the case when the final variant of the service pack is shipped, by mid 2008. In the official Overview of Windows XP Service Pack 3, Microsoft confirmed that "Windows XP SP3 does not include Windows Internet Explorer 7". However, at the same time, the company informed that "Windows XP SP3 does include updates to both Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7, and it will update whichever version is installed on the computer."
In this context, Microsoft will not force Windows XP SP2 users still running Internet Explorer 6 to upgrade to Internet Explorer 7. Such a move will undoubtedly hurt the adoption of IE7, as far as XP users are concerned. And on top of this, not offering IE7 with XP SP3 is a move that will reverberate across Internet Explorer's share on the browser market. According to statistics made available by Net Applications, IE currently owns the lion's share with 77.35% of the market. Microsoft has recently revealed that at one year after the RTM of IE7 for Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003, the browser's install base topped the 300 million mark.
Mozilla is runner up with Firefox and a share of 16.01%. But in comparison to Microsoft, users of the opera source browser have embraced version 2.0, the latest iteration to come out, at the same time with IE7. At this point in time, the vast majority of Firefox users are running version 2.0, while, one year after the release, Internet Explorer 6 still has a market share superior to that of Internet Explorer 7, with 40.24% vs. 36.84%.