Microsoft ponders Win XP update CD

Microsoft is toying with the idea of providing its Windows XP users on low-bandwidth Internet connections with a CD containing its latest security patches.

Currently, Windows XP users must download security patches and fixes from Microsoft's Windows Update site. Because of the size of these fixes, this is not only a time-consuming process but it is also costly, particularly for people with slow Internet speeds.

The CD is referred to within Microsoft circles as the Windows XP Consumer Security CD. However, Microsoft product communications manager, Shannon Rudd, said it was still a concept. "It is an idea Microsoft is kicking around."

Should the CD take flight, she said it would be released sometime in Q1 2004. Ideally, the CD would be in the hands of customers by February, she said.

Rudd said the idea for the CD is about "making the customer’s experience better".

"Based on customer feedback, Microsoft is working to make the maintenance of Windows XP as simple as possible to provide the best computing experience possible," she said. Should the CD become available, the frequency of its release has yet to be determined.

Microsoft has been criticised by many customers without broadband connections because it takes quite a bit of effort to download Windows patch software from Microsoft's Web site. The feeling is they should not be asked to incur an additional cost -- namely download cost from their ISP -- for a piece of software for which they have already paid.

Another deterrent for users from updating their Windows software is that they are exposing their PCs to security threats. This year, harmful worms such as Blaster and Slammer were able to cause havoc on Windows XP PCs because users have not implemented patches that were already supplied online by Microsoft.

According to Rudd, only Windows XP patches will be supplied on the CD as virus writers today are largely targeting Windows XP.

If the CD is finalised it would most likely be distributed in Australia through retailers such as Harvey Norman, David Jones and Office Works.

It is believed the CD run would be in excess of 100,000.

In the long term, Microsoft is revising its patch management processes. Namely, this will see it reduce the size of patches, making them easier to download.