During his keynote address at the annual RSA Conference today, Bill Gates announced some of the initiatives driven by Microsoft, including plans for a new version of Microsoft Internet Explorer for Windows XP Service Pack 2 customers; expanding anti-spyware protection by including the Windows AntiSpyware technology at no additional charge as part of the Windows model; protection technology for businesses through the release to manufacturing of Microsoft Internet Security & Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004 Enterprise Edition; and the need for more robust anti-virus protections for collaboration and messaging, demonstrated with Microsoft's intention to acquire Sybari Software Inc.
In August, Microsoft released Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), which included major security advancements. Windows XP SP2 includes significant upgrades to Internet Explorer, incorporating a stronger security infrastructure to help thwart malicious software attacks, block suspicious content and eliminate many common spoofing attempts. Gates cited the fact that there are now more than 170 million copies of Windows XP SP2 distributed around the world, and highlighted a recent report from Web analytics firm WebSideStory Inc. that shows almost half of all computer users browsing the Web on weekends have Windows XP SP2 installed.
Building on those advancements, Gates announced Internet Explorer 7.0. The new browser version will also provide stronger defenses against phishing, malicious software and spyware. The beta release is scheduled to be available this summer.
About the AntySpyware program, Gates commented that since the beta version became available 6 Jan 2005 more than 6 million copies have been downloaded. Gates announced the company's plan for making the personal version of the final Windows AntiSpyware software available at no additional charge to licensed Windows customers.
The offering will offer full functionality to consumers, including the ability to detect and remove spyware, continual protection that helps guard against more than 50 ways that Web sites and programs can put spyware on a PC, and protection against the latest threats through the combined efforts of the SpyNet community and Microsoft researchers. For business customers, with more complex infrastructure support, management and deployment needs, Microsoft plans a managed anti-spyware solution that will be available as part of a paid solution.
Also highlighted were Microsoft's efforts to promote the computing ecosystem and infrastructure that allows customers to keep software current with the latest security updates. As a result of these efforts, there was a 400 percent increase in the number of PCs that are being automatically updated by customers using Software Update Services and Windows Update in 2004. To further simplify the update process, Gates announced that a beta version of Microsoft Update, a unified update service for consumers and small businesses that includes technologies such as Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, Office 2003 and Exchange Server 2003, is scheduled for release in mid-March. Microsoft Update will consolidate the latest security and reliability updates in one convenient location. In addition, Gates confirmed that the final version of a complimentary service designed for midsize and larger enterprises, Windows Update Services, will be available in the first half of 2005. Windows Update Services will enable system administrators to more quickly obtain updates for a wider array of Microsoft applications and distribute them across their networks.
In addition, Gates announced that version 2.0 of the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA), a tool to help identify common security misconfigurations, will be available in the same timeframe as Windows Update Services, and will work seamlessly with Windows Update Services to provide consistency in scanning and deployment.