Microsoft\u00a0Monday said\u00a0that the ship date on its Windows Update Services patch management tool has slipped yet again, this time into the first half of 2005.Microsoft\u00a0said Monday that the ship date for two of the key components in its lineup of patch management tools has slipped again, this time into the first half of 2005.Windows Update Services (WUS), originally called System Update Services 2.0, was slated to ship in May, but Microsoft changed the name and pushed the tool\u2019s release to the end of 2004 during its Management Conference in March.Also delayed in Microsoft Update, a single Web site where users can download patches for a host of Microsoft products. Today, users suffer with multiple sites from which to get patches.WUS is a free Windows server add-on that runs behind a firewall and automates the acquisition and deployment of patches. Corporate customers could use it as a single point for downloading patches and as a central hub for distributing them throughout their networks. It allows users to control when and how patches are deployed.The WUS predecessor, SUS 1.0, is used by 150,000 corporate servers to receive updates, according to Microsoft.Last November, Microsoft promised a May ship date for its new patch technologies, including WUS, new installer technology called Microsoft Installer (MSI) 3.0, and Microsoft Update. None of the technology has been delivered.\u201cWUS is still in development and we will make it available sometime after the release of Windows XP Service Pack 2,\u201d says Gytis Barzdukas, director of product management for the security business and technology unit at Microsoft. He says Microsoft also will to make its new Baseline Security Analyzer tool, which has been developed on a new code base, available sometime after WUS ships. MSI 3.0 is slated for release with XP SP2.A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company expects to deliver a second beta release for the WUS Open Evaluation Program during the final three months of this year.She said feedback from that beta will be used to finalize WUS.Microsoft said the release date slipped because the WUS team is developing a new Automatic Updates agent, which will be included in Windows XP SP2. The agent is designed to improve updating for client machines and those using WUS. Microsoft says 90 million unique machines now use its Automatic Updates agent to keep their machines up to date with patches.In the future, WUS is expected to become a part of the Windows operating system, likely with the Longhorn server version expected to ship in 2007.Microsoft also plans to integrate WUS directly into System Management Server (SMS), making it the deployment engine for the licensed product. The combination will let corporations run WUS and SMS without some of the deployment inconsistencies that plague Microsoft\u2019s tools today.