Microsoft: No Silver Bullet for Security Problems

 
 
By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-07-29
 
 
 
REDMOND, Wash.—While Microsoft remains committed to security and will raise the protection bar with its release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) next month, there is no single silver bullet to the problem, Will Poole, senior vice president of Microsofts Windows client division, said at the annual analyst day here Thursday.

Security issues have been at the forefront of Microsoft Corp.s business over the past year as this has come to a head, Poole said, adding that Microsoft is committed to building trust through innovation and is doing everything it can to improve the quality of the software and the way it responds to attacks.

"We also realized that the hackers were looking at our fixes and were using these as the basis for ways to exploit the software, so we changed our behavior around that. We also want to find ways to stop the virus before it gets to the users PC and to halt the worm before it is propagated over the network," Poole said.

"All of these efforts will help us reduce the rate and severity of those attacks, But there is no silver bullet, and all we are doing is just a step on that journey," he cautioned.

But he said the upcoming Windows XP SP2 contains advanced security technologies and brings four main areas of improvement. First is network protection, which he said will help protect the users system from attacks over the network. Enabling safer e-mail and IM is the second major leg, Poole said.

Third is safer Web browsing, to enable more secure Internet experiences for the most common Internet tasks, while the last area is protection against buffer overruns.

"We feel very good about the things were doing in XP SP2 and the way we are moving forward. XP SP2 will take users a long way forward," Poole said, adding that the service pack is on track to ship in August and will be pushed out primarily through the Web.

On the innovation front, selling more PCs is the business opportunity here, especially into homes that already have one, Poole said, showing a range of new Tablet PC hardware, including one half-pound model that is 11 millimeters thick. He also talked up the Windows Media Center PC.

Poole said emerging markets are another area of new growth for the company, as the home PC penetration in other countries is low compared with that in the United States, where it stands at about 60 percent.

"Over 400 million households will have, by 2008, the income, electricity and connectivity for a home PC, and the biggest markets in this regard are Brazil, Russia and India. This would be addressed through ongoing initiatives like the Windows XP Starter Edition, a tailored version of Windows with a lower price and tailored to specific emerging-market needs.

The company also sees "incredible" growth in Internet cafes in emerging markets, Poole said, naming rural computing as another huge opportunity area for the company.

Microsoft is not alone in seeing big growth opportunities in emerging markets. Earlier this month, IBM formed a new, high-growth business group called Strategic Growth Initiatives that combines several initiatives, including Linux, grid computing and virtualization. It is designed to target emerging markets where demand for its technologies is growing the fastest.

Another area of revenue growth for Microsoft is in reducing the number of PCs running unlicensed software, even in the United States, which has a 22 percent unlicensed-software rate.

Microsoft will work with the channel, consumers and law enforcement to address and reduce the problem, Poole said. "We have piloted great work in China with the Microsoft Club program. It is designed to help drive sales into the unlicensed markets," he said.

Turning to Longhorn, the next big release of Windows, Poole said this is a very important effort for the company. It will be manageable and deployable and the advances would be easily deployable by businesses, he promised.

On the consumer side, Poole said users here want technology and features woven together to create specific features important to them so they can get more out of their PC experience.

"Well get through the security issues and get through the next leg of that with the advances brought through XP SP2," he said.

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