OK, there are lots of good reasons for Microsoft pulling down the AutoPatcher service. AutoPatcher has been running for four years as an alternative to Windows Update:
[AutoPatcher provides] an up-to-date collection of security patches and tweaks in a single file for each supported version of Windows. Sys admins could save time and bandwidth by updating machines from a single file obtained from the service rather than downloading everything for Windows Update.
Microsoft's reason for shutting it down?
It is Microsoft policy that the distribution of supplemental code such as hotfixes, security updates, and service packs is discouraged. This policy is in place due to concern for the safety and security of our customers, as we can only guarantee the download?s contents when it comes from a Microsoft Web site. Distribution of these materials without permission is also an infringement of our copyright.
The copyright argument I buy (and is one of those "good reasons" I mentioned above). The security risks argument? It may well be true, but it calls into question Microsoft's own service. If customers think their needs are better served with AutoPatcher than with Windows Update, Microsoft needs to do a better job with Windows Update.
One of the reasons Red Hat Enterprise Linux succeeds is because Red Hat offers its Network product which distributes patches, updates, etc. As the source of the code, customers generally find more value in getting the code/bits from Red Hat rather than CentOS or some other third-party copycat.
The same should be true of Microsoft. If as the source of Windows and its updates, Microsoft can't justify the value of Windows Update to its customers, it needs to amplify its value.
Personally, if I used Windows, I'd happily get my updates from Microsoft. As I remember it, Windows Update was easy to use and I trusted it to be the fastest, best way to get updates on Windows. Apparently, others disagree. Rather than shutting down the AutoPatcher service citing security concerns, I think Microsoft would do better to obliterate it by obviating the need for it.
It's called competing on the basis of superior support/service, not superior lawyers. Microsoft is a strong company that can compete well on the basis of its products. This is just a small reminder to do so.