What do candy, Microsoft products and Congress have in common?

And the answer? Daylight Saving Time. Let’s just say it’s been a popular discussion topic around the office this week.

A 2001 public service announcement for the upcoming turning back of the clocksFor the history of how this came to be — and to know who you can thank for the extra hour of sleep once a year — look to none other than our multi-talented founding father, Benjamin Franklin. You can read more about DST on NPR’s site. Note that it is not “Daylight Savings Time” (with an extra “s”) as it’s often referred: according to the Wikipedia, this is a “common variant… frequently heard in speech and appears in some dictionaries.”

Now, back to our story. As reported in the news, there’s a change coming in the calendar as we will all be asked to move to Daylight Saving Time a full three weeks earlier than in previous years. This year, we’ll move our clocks on March 11 rather than on the first Sunday in April. To be precise: “daylight saving time (DST) start and end dates for the United States will transition to comply with the Energy Policy Act of 2005. DST dates in the United States will start three weeks earlier (2:00 A.M. on the second Sunday in March) and will end one week later (2:00 A.M. on the first Sunday in November).”

You can also thank the US Congress for enacting the Energy Policy Act of 2005, much to the joy of one industry in particular: candy manufacturers, who reportedly lobbied for an extension to DST. This sunny extension will allow trick-or-treaters to scream “trick-or-treat” and collect candy for an additional hour. (Or, as we said in Canada, when I bantered about in the Northern dark, ringing doorbells and crying out “Halloween Apples!”) See also this article in the Provodence Journal for more perspectives on DST.

So what does this have to do with Windows?

Glad you asked.

A change to DST means a change to many Microsoft products, including Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Server 2003: for these there is “a single global time zone update which will include changes for the United States DST change,” including changes that have been released as hotfixes and noted in various KB articles.

For end-users customers, updates for Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 will be available via Windows Update, Automatic Update, and WSUS starting on December 12, 2006.

For our customers and partners, we have a section on our website dedicated to helping you prepare for daylight saving time changes in 2007. Watch the site over the next couple of weeks as it is being updated regularly with information.

“Microsoft will be producing an update for Microsoft products affected by the new United States daylight saving time transition dates. These updates will be released through a combination of channels including Microsoft Customer Support Services (CSS), hotfixes incorporated in Knowledge Base articles, Windows Update, Microsoft Update, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), and the Microsoft Download Center.”

For Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007, I believe no updates will be needed, as updated time zone definitions are already included in the products.

Here’s the real fun: Congress may decide to move back to the old schedule. They retained the right to fall back (pardon the pun) to the old 1986 law if after the study period they find that this new change is “unpopular or if energy savings are not significant,” according to the Washington Post. If I were a betting man, I might just take that bet.

More information: We’ll be updating the content on the DST 2007 information page, providing links to key documents and articles that provide more information on DST adjustments for other Microsoft products, including…

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