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This week in Windows Vista

Microsoft brings more focus to its upcoming operating system as it gives developers access to a key piece of Windows Vista.

Microsoft brought a little more focus to its upcoming operating systems as it gave developers access to a key piece of Windows Vista this week.

The company posted near-final versions of two software development technologies that are part of WinFX, the underlying programming model being introduced with Vista, which is slated to ship late this year. The release is a "significant checkpoint" on the road toward delivery of the company's new programming model because it allows developers to build and deploy applications on their core production systems, said Ari Bixhorn, director of Web services strategy at Microsoft.

WinFX combines Microsoft's existing .Net programming model with new tools for more easily linking software over the Internet, displaying data and creating business systems, Microsoft said.

Microsoft also released a security update for preview releases of Windows Vista that fixes the same image-rendering vulnerability found in earlier versions of the operating system. The release is believed to be the first security patch for Windows Vista. Updates are available for Windows Vista beta 1, released in July, and last month's Community Technology Preview release.

The patch fixes a vulnerability in the way the operating system's Graphics Rendering Engine processes Windows Meta File images. That bug was first discovered late last month as it was being exploited by cybercriminals to load spyware, adware and other malicious code onto the PCs of unwitting Windows users.

Aiming to keep its focus on Windows Vista, Microsoft is now targeting 2007 for its next Windows XP service pack update. In a posting to its "life cycle" Web site, Microsoft set a preliminary date of the second half of next year for the release of Windows XP Service Pack 3 for both home and professional editions. That puts its debut well past the arrival of Vista, which is slated for the second half of this year and later than both outsiders and some insiders had originally predicted.

"We will be releasing another service pack for XP over the course of the product life cycle, and we are tentatively targeting the second half of 2007 for release," a Microsoft representative said in an e-mail to CNET News.com. "However, right now our priority is Windows Vista--we'll have more information to share about the next service pack for XP after Windows Vista ships."

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