Microsofts current plan is to combine consumer and small business OS and applications updates into a new service, while keeping the old update scheme for everything else. This is much more confusing than a single service would be.
When this plan is implemented, most Windows users will no longer be using Windows Update. But that name will live on for enterprise customers. I think Microsoft should fully integrate all its updates into a single service and user experience.
Microsoft said this week that users of Windows XP, Windows 2000, Microsoft Office 2003, Windows Server 2003, and Exchange Server 2003 will soon begin beta testing the new all-in-one Microsoft Update service. This service replaces the separate Windows Update and Office Update services these customers use today.
Or dont use, especially when youre talking about Office update. My informal survey of a few dozen Windows-using friends found only a couple who were even aware of Office Update. Thats sad because its where you download the updates for Microsofts not-as-effective-as-it-used-to-be spam blocking thats built into Outlook.
With Microsoft Update, due to beta next month, desktop users should get security fixes, anti-spam updates, and Office service packs pretty much automatically, provided they have the automatic download and install feature turned on.
Its not clear whether Microsofts anti-spyware product and future anti-virus products will come under the Microsoft Update umbrella. I understand that as long as these get updated in the background it really doesnt matter how the updates are delivered. But I would like to have a single place to manage updates and update subscriptions for all my Microsoft products. I also want to see the updates I have and havent accepted and when they were offered.
As the admin of a small network, I need Microsoft Update to include an automated way of making sure all the computers in my office get updated. I want this to happen without user intervention or even user awareness.
My Panda anti-virus software gets updated every day on every desktop, and none of the users are even aware of it. This is how I want my Microsoft updates delivered, and I want it to happen without a lot of set-up on my part. Small Business Server should be updated to include this functionality, which might be implemented in a number of ways.
Enterprise customers often have this capability already, but even for them distributing updates, especially security updates, to desktop users needs to be brain-dead simple. And it isnt.
I have been after Microsoft for more than a decade to combine operating system and applications updates into a single service. That it took so long to happen is disappointing, but hardly surprising. Microsoft continues to be slow in reacting to the problems it has created, not just for its own customers but for everyone using any kind of device thats attached to the Internet.
Microsoft must do a great deal more to help companies and users keep their computers safe. The new Microsoft Update, when it ships, will be a belated step in that direction. And not a very big one at that.