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Ballmer Intros Update Service

Microsoft launches its unified update and patch service, dubbed Microsoft Update, with chief executive Steve Ballmer leading the charge by claiming that Windows is cheaper to patch than rival Linux.

Microsoft launched its unified update and patch service, dubbed Microsoft Update, on Monday, with chief executive Steve Ballmer leading the charge by claiming that Windows is 13 to 14 percent cheaper to patch than rival Linux operating systems.

According to research commissioned by Microsoft, Windows Server software is less expensive to patch and update, Ballmer announced during his wide-ranging presentation to kick off TechEd 2005 in Orlando.

"We've really made security job number 1," Ballmer said, "and we still have security absolutely as job 1.

"None of this is designed to tell you that our job is done," Ballmer went on, "and you'll see us continue to invest in security."

Along with the survey Ballmer touted -- which was done for Microsoft by Bangalore, India-based Wipro, an IT service provider and outsourcer -- he showed the audience slides claiming that the number of vulnerabilities in Windows Server 2003 were far lower than rival Linux distributions from SuSE and Red Hat. Ballmer's tally had Windows Server 2003 with just 30 vulnerabilities over the past year, compared to 164 for SuSE and 191 for Red Hat.

Ballmer then announced that Microsoft Update, the all-in-one update service that Microsoft has been testing since March, after its February announcement by chairman Bill Gates, was going live Monday.

The successor to Windows Update assembles updates for a variety of Microsoft software in one place, including patches for Windows, the Office suite, Exchange, and SQL Server. It's available, however, only to users of Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003.

"We've taken the concept of Windows Update and moved it up to a whole new level," said Ballmer from the TechEd stage.

Although Microsoft Update rolled out Monday, the earlier services -- Windows Update and Office Update -- will remain available indefinitely as users migrate to the newer update technology.

The launch of Microsoft Update was matched by the roll-out of other update services and software from the Redmond, Wash.-based developer. Software Update Services (SUS) 2.0 and Windows Update Services, together called "Windows Server Update Services" (WSUS), were also launched Monday, and can be downloaded from Microsoft's Windows Server site.

While WSUS is intended for businesses, it uses the same catalog of patches as the for-consumer-and-home-businesses Microsoft Update, said Ballmer. "There's one update catalog across all our technologies," said Ballmer. "SMS [Systems Management Server] can talk to the update catalog too, and keep large enterprises fresh with the latest updates."

Ballmer also said that additional update and patching tools, including Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.0 and the SMS Inventory Tool will release this summer.

"We know that your number one desire is for us to eliminate the need for patches," acknowledged Ballmer, something he repeatedly stressed Microsoft was working on, but failing that, the addition of new update tools and services should make patching less painful. "Along with our other efforts," Ballmer said, citing acquisitions and product testing in anti-virus, anti-spam, and anti-spyware areas, "we think you now have the tools you need to manage your security."

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