Nash: Windows XP SP2 On Schedule, SUS 2.0 Delayed

Nash said he and a select number of developers have had access since November to the Windows XP Service Pack 2 beta, but soon a broader number of corporate testers will gain access. "Not everyone can get [the beta version]," said Nash, acknowledging growing customer demand to test in-house the Windows XP security update. "Over time, we're broadening the beta--and very shortly."

Nash added, however, that while the Windows XP Service Pack 2 remains on track to ship during the first half of 2004, SUS 2.0--which has been renamed Windows Update Services--won't reach the market until the second half of 2004. The first beta version of Windows Update Services was announced and released at the Microsoft Management Summit 2004 also on Tuesday.

An official Microsoft slide presented during Nash's briefing showed that SUS 2.0, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and Microsoft Update hosted patch management software will be available in the second half of 2004. Last October, Microsoft had promised SUS 2.0 would ship by May of 2004.

Nash said Microsoft is officially sticking to a ship date in the first half of the year for Windows XP Service Pack 2. Corporate customers and partners will be able to get the beta from their account representative or through MSDN and TechNet Plus in the "near future," he said.

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Windows XP Service Pack 2 is considered by many to be much more than a service pack. Nash demonstrated new security features, including pop-up windows that alert users when their computer is at risk of virus; a new feature called the Windows Security Center that verifies update and firewall information; a pop-up blocker; and a "gold bar" that shows when a pop-up window has been blocked.

He and other Microsoft executives said Windows XP Service Pack 2 is designed for systems "on the edge," such as laptop PCs and remote PCs connecting in and out of the network.

Microsoft is working simultaneously on host security technologies that will add a new layer of protection for host clients and servers, including anti-virus, host intrusion detection and vulnerability detection tools, said Eric Lockard, general manager of Host Security Technologies for Microsoft's Security Business and Technology Unit.

For instance, Microsoft is working on active protection technologies such as intrusion prevention and behavior blockers to derail worms and viruses at different stages of their life cycle, executives said.

Additionally, Microsoft plans to ship in 2005 the Exchange Edge Services, a new filter that will offer additional extended e-mail protection against spam and viruses at the edge of the network, Nash said. He added that Visual Studio 2005 will give developers better tools for building more secure applications and Web services.

Finally, the Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) code, formerly known as the Palladium project, will provide a new level of Windows hardening against viruses and worms, Nash said.