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Microsoft delivers new patching tools

More than a year behind schedule, the company launches Microsoft Update service and a companion patching tool for businesses.

After several delays, Microsoft has delivered an overhaul of its corporate patching tool and the promised successor to its Windows Update service.

In addition, the company set a date of mid-July for delivery of an add-on to Systems Management Server 2003 that lets large organizations inventory and install Microsoft updates. At that time, small and midsize businesses will get Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.0, which is a tool to check their systems to see if they are up to date on their Microsoft fixes.

The announcements were made Monday at TechEd, Microsoft's annual customer conference, which is being held this week in Orlando, Fla.

The corporate patching tool, called Windows Server Update Services, or WSUS, was originally slated for release in the first half of last year. Microsoft Update, which replaces Windows Update, was also supposed to launch at that time, but was pushed back.

Microsoft has blamed the delays in part on work it had to do on Windows XP Service Pack 2, a mammoth security-focused update for Windows XP that was released in August.

Unlike Windows Update, Microsoft Update provides patches for a number of the company's products, not just the Windows operating system. That means customers no longer have to visit several Microsoft Web sites--for each product--to make sure they have the latest fixes.

Microsoft Update is also the back-end for WSUS, Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.0 and the new SMS 2003 Inventory Tool. This takes care of a problem with Microsoft's older Windows Update, SMS and MBSA products, which sometimes gave different results when scanning systems for patch requirements.

The new patching products cover Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003; Office XP and later versions; Exchange 2000 and later versions; and SQL Server 2000 and later versions, Microsoft said. Updates for additional Microsoft desktop and server applications will be added over time, a company representative said.

WSUS succeeds the existing Software Update Services tool. It is Microsoft's no-charge add-on to Windows Server to help companies deal with software updates. The new version includes improvements in patch delivery, status reporting, network usage and implementation, and administration flexibility, Microsoft has said.