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At TechEd: Longhorn can wait: Security patch for XP is priority

Mimicking the Ford quality slogan of a generation ago, CEO Steve Ballmer said in his keynote at TechEd that at Microsoft 'security is job one.'

To make his point, the Microsoft CEO said that completing a security patch for Windows XP is such a high priority, that work on it took precedence over completing Longhorn, the much-anticipated but delayed new release of the operating system.

Microsoft is urging developers working on or maintaining applications running on Windows XP to get up to speed on Service Pack 2 (SP2), currently a Release Candidate 1 (RC1). While final release is due around June, the SDK for RC1 was made available for download on May 21, the Friday before TechEd opened in San Diego.

Developers can find the download, documentation, tutorials and other information at http://msdn.microsoft.com/security/ .

Tony Goodhew, product manager for .NET Framework at Microsoft, was making the rounds at TechEd, urging developers to visit the site and learn how SP2 may impact their applications.

While everyone from Bill Gates to Goodhew say that the security update for XP is not a 'silver bullet,' the product manager said it will provide for more secure e-mail, instant messaging and Web interaction for end users. It will also help to protect PC memory from crippling attacks and take advantage of new hardware security features in current AMD and upcoming Intel chip releases, he noted.

However, developers need to check existing Windows applications to determine if they need to modify code or change settings in areas such as user log-in to make sure they are compatible with XP SP2, Goodhew said.

'We're asking developers to understand and be prepared [for XP SP2],' Goodhew told Programmers Report. 'Go get RC1, and review the documentation and online training.'

While the documentation runs 170 pages, he said the 90-minute online training program on the MSDN security Web site is a relatively quick and easy way for developers to learn what they need. For those who want to dive in deeper, there are white papers and Webcasts.

While there is no firm release date for XP SP2, Goodhew said it will be mid-year; since June is just around the corner, it may begin appearing on Windows systems this summer. When it is released, Goodhew said Microsoft plans a $300 million advertising campaign to get the word out to OEMs, retailers and consumers.

In additional Microsoft security news, the company announced partnerships with appliance vendors, including Hewlett-Packard, to provide hardware solutions for the Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA Server) 2004. ISA Server provides IT managers with an advanced application layer firewall, virtual private networking (VPN) and Web cache software that helps to protect against hack attacks, viruses, e-mail worms and other security threats, according to Jonathan Perera, senior director of Microsoft's security business unit.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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