I recently received a mail from the Microsoft IT team notifying me that they had detected several applications on my desktop computer that did not have the latest patches installed and instructed me to install the latest updates. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t update the applications I run as much as I should; either on my home machine or on my work machines. It usually takes a problem like a broken feature in an application or an email (or sometimes several) from the IT department, to get me to install updates. Unfortunately I’m more of the rule than the exception when it comes to users updating their applications.
This requirement of needing a user or admin to manually install an update is why rolling out client updates has traditionally been such a huge problem and expense. One solution is to move the responsibility of updating the application from the user to the application itself. Instead of the user obtaining and installing a software update, the client application itself is responsible for downloading and installing updates from a well known server. The only user interaction necessary is whether or not they want to install the new updates now or later. You can see this type of approach to updating applications in action today with products like Windows XP and Microsoft Money.