Microsoft Should Give BitLocker Encryption to All

By David Morgenstern  |  Posted 2006-05-02 Print this article Print

Opinion: To hold such an essential feature out as a carrot to induce users to enroll in its high-end licensing programs is the very kind of behavior that has driven many customers to seek open-source alternatives.

Heres a spring SAT question for the IT executive: When it comes to Windows Vista upgrades, is Microsoft more like the Internal Revenue Service or an Atlantic City casino?

Regardless of whether you work for a large, midsize or small business, the answer is "yes." In case you misplaced your SKU crib sheet, the business-focused Windows Vista SKUs are: Business and Enterprise as well as a SOHO (small office/home office) variant called Windows Vista Ultimate, which combines the media content Home Edition capabilities with the Enterprise Edition.

Click here to read a review of Windows Vista Build 5308.
The catch is that the only way to get most of the useful features of the Enterprise SKU—the BitLocker drive encryption; Virtual PC Express virtual-machine support; SUA (Subsystem for Unix-based Applications), which will let Unix applications run on Vista; and access to all worldwide languages supported by Vista with a single deployment image—will be to sign up for either an Enterprise Agreement or Software Assurance volume licensing deal.

Given the security problems that have plagued Windows and the need of all business users for greater security, the single must-have Vista Enterprise feature is surely BitLocker encryption. To hold such an essential feature out as a carrot to induce users to enroll in its high-end licensing programs is the very kind of behavior that has driven many customers to seek open-source alternatives rather than face a lifetime of being wedded to Microsoft products and licensing terms.

Indeed, for many enterprises, dealing with Microsofts licensing practices is like playing against the house at a casino. Customers can never be quite sure if their agreements will encompass a promised upgrade like Vista and its much-needed features or if they will be out of luck, as some early volume deal customers have been, in waiting for Longhorn.

Vista upgrades may feel like Tax Day to IT managers of some SMBs (small and midsize businesses). Just as when figuring the AMT (alternative minimum tax) alongside the usual tax charts, they will need to run the ROI numbers carefully. Will it be best to pay for the Enterprise Agreement or Software Assurance or, instead, to calculate the cost per machine of varying individual licenses? The latter course will mean taking into consideration which applications the machine will be used for, its hardware characteristics and the needs of each user.

The recent Microsoft management shake-up ripples through its security unit. Click here to read more. Instead of constructing its licensing agreements to seemingly maximize both user uncertainty and the companys own profits, Microsoft should give customers straightforward, affordable choices. Standardized encryption is essential for all business users, and it should be available to all of them, whether or not they sign up for a volume deal.

Whats in it for Microsoft? The kind of customer good will that no marketing campaign can possibly generate. We believe that Microsoft should do the right thing for the legions of users, both large and small, that have been loyal to the company over the years. Microsoft should include the BitLocker feature in all its business SKUs.

eWeeks Editorial Board consists of Jason Brooks, Larry Dignan, Stan Gibson, David Morgenstern, Scot Petersen and Matthew Rothenberg.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
David Morgenstern is Executive Editor/Special Projects of eWEEK. Previously, he served as the news editor of Ziff Davis Internet and editor for Ziff Davis' Storage Supersite.

In 'the days,' he was an award-winning editor with the heralded MacWEEK newsweekly as well as eMediaweekly, a trade publication for managers of professional digital content creation.

David has also worked on the vendor side of the industry, including companies offering professional displays and color-calibration technology, and Internet video.

He can be reached here.


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