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Microsoft putting final touches on Windows update

TechEd attendees have mixed feelings on XP SP2. One compliments its "pop-up killer." Another calls integration a "major pain."

AMSTERDAM--Microsoft junkies have been waiting and waiting for Windows XP Service Pack 2, but it seems the end is finally in sight.

"I can guarantee it will ship within the next two months," Tony Goodhew, product manager at Microsoft, said at the company's TechEd 2004 conference here this week.

Microsoft's most recent timetables had set the release for June, and then July, but last month the company pushed that back to "this summer." Two weeks ago, it released a nearly final test version.

Just before the release of SP2, the Windows Update feature will be upgraded to version 5.0. The main improvement with the new release is that if a download is stopped part of the way through, it will restart from the point at which it stopped rather than having to start from the beginning again. This should be particularly practical for downloading SP2, which is 80MB in size.

Microsoft recently acknowledged that the download times for patches over dial-up connections are an issue. The changes to Windows Update are also designed to help resolve the problem and encourage more home users to patch their machines.

A preview of version 5.0 of Windows Update can be found on Microsoft's Web site.

Most of the conference-goers that ZDNet UK interviewed are looking forward to the upcoming Windows release.

"SP2 is a great improvement," said Paul Wildenberg, a consultant at a Dutch IT company.

Barnabas Megyesi, an IT operational manager for the Hungarian government, agreed. "SP2 has some great features. The pop-up killer is a good feature, as many users have a headache with it," he said.

A few delegates commented on hassles in deploying SP2 because of integration issues. "SP2 is a major pain for people like me. It is a lot of work to deploy it--doing all the research and testing to make sure it fits into the infrastructure," said Aidan Finn, network team leader at Hypo Real Estate Bank in Ireland.

Goodhew responded: "We are doing as much work as possible to make deployment as painless as possible."

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from Amsterdam.