Surprise as Strategy

By eweek  |  Posted 2004-03-29 Print this article Print

So, is that mentality still alive at Microsoft? Not so much the ruthless win-at-all-costs mentality you sometimes hear about, but a desire to win in every segment? Well, win in the sense that we have customers who really say, Wow, this is great. The win that is probably top-of-mind at the company right now is that the customer perception of industry security and Microsoft security is, Hey, these guys havent done enough.
And so the mindset right now is lets win by surprising people, on isolating systems to make them secure and updating systems to make sure they dont have any vulnerabilities. We really need to surprise people, and we have some great work going on that I think we will surprise people in that area.
Theres a lot of enthusiasm for that. When you see the first few customers who really see those pieces, and we make them practical to roll out. Weve always been a culture where seeing the software in use is part of the reward cycle. Part of thats competitive. You know if Apple does something thats particularly good, there are certainly people at Microsoft who say, Ahh! We can do better than that. Like they did iPod, and now were doing some things like this Portable Media Center that bring video into it. You said youre doing some things that will surprise the industry regarding security. What did you mean by that? Well, when I say surprise, what I mean is, our software-updating product is called SMS, Software Management Server; the latest is the 2003 version. When I say surprise people, there are no secrets here, but just having customers talk to other customers and say, Hey, SMS really solved this problem, that within a small number of hours we can deploy and update and understand that its out there, and we can even set a policy that systems dont get onto the network unless they have this update. And getting rid of security [issues], its like a dog that doesnt bark, it looms over everything. So when I say surprise people, I mean that the pieces will really come together and that we can show people how to audit whether theyve isolated their systems the right way. They can audit whether theyre doing updating the right way. And its required a lot if invention on our part. These are not things that mainframes or minicomputers from the past had solved. And yet they have to be solved. XP [Service Pack 2] is part of that, the software-updating servers, and all the things were doing to show people how to get isolation in their environment and check that. Whats a bigger challenge to Microsoft right now and going forward: the legal issues youre facing right now or security? Well, security by a huge, huge amount. When I have meetings with customers now, there might be one or two topics at the coffee break about the EU [European Union] or some other legal thing. Its certainly way, way down from three or four years ago, when we were in the height of some of the legal issues that got resolved. So, really, by far its security. In fact, Longhorn, were thrilled about the innovation there; its our No. 2 priority but its been pushed back. We dont even know when it is, so we cant do precise math on this. But its certainly quite a bit pushed back because weve really prioritized the resources to be on security-focused issues. Next page: Make-or-break products.


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