Microsoft Delays Windows Update Services to Early 2005 

Microsoft revealed Monday night that it would delay the release of Windows Update Services (WUS) to the first half of 2005. Originally, this updated version of Microsoft Software Update Services (SUS) was set to ship in fall 2004. The delay will also affect the public beta of WUS; originally scheduled for summer 2004, the WUS beta will now ship in late 2004 instead.

"There are two primary drivers behind this schedule change," a Microsoft representative told me. First, the March release of the Windows Update Services closed beta has spurred overwhelming interest from customers and partners evaluating the product. Microsoft has assessed this input as part of the beta cycle and is committed to incorporating the feedback before releasing the next beta release for the Windows Update Services Open Evaluation Program.

"Second, the Windows Update Services team is developing a new Automatic Updates agent that will be included in Windows XP Service Pack 2 SP2," she said The new agent is used both to improve the updating experience for XP SP2 users connecting directly to Windows Update and for users who will leverage Windows Update Services in their corporate environments in the future. This decision to include the new Automatic Update technology in XP SP2 and perform the necessary integration and testing requires the development schedule for Windows Update Services being staggered behind the XP SP2 release.

"The representative noted that Microsoft would incorporate feedback from the late 2004 open evaluation program for WUS to finalize the product. The open evaluation program will be based on WUS beta 2 code," Microsoft says.

Microsoft Expands Media Center Business to System Builders

In August, Microsoft will dramatically expand the reach of its Windows XP Media Center Edition XP (MCE) software by providing it to custom PC system builders for use in so called white-box PCs. To date, customers could obtain XP MCE from select tier one PC makers such as Dell, HP, and Gateway and only on special Media Center PCs which have historically been higher end multimedia capable boxes.

"We've recognized that our work with Media Center going only through our large predominantly multinational OEMs is something that we could actually take further if we were to directly engage the system builders channel," Microsoft senior vice president, Will Poole, said Monday during his keynote address at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto. "System builders can now ship this product in 13 geographies. It means that we're going to have a partner support kit available. We're working very closely with ATI Technologies and NVIDIA to create a single kit that's going to give you what you need in terms of a tuner card, the right graphics card, a remote control IR, infrared receiver, everything you need to put together a Media Center PC in the specific configurations that your customers want. And we're going to create this new design for the Window XP Media Center Edition logo program so you know what products are certified to work in those Media Center configurations.

Several systems builders, including Able Computer Systems AdvanTec Computer Company Micro Standard and PC Club, are demonstrating XP MCE based PCs at the partner conference this week. The companies say that they'll have products available for customers in time for the 2004 holiday selling season.