Microsoft's gaggle of CFOs

Microsoft has updated Disney's classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Redmond's new summer blockbuster is called "John Connors and the Seven CFOs."

Microsoft has updated Disney's classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Redmond's new summer blockbuster is called John Connors and the Seven CFOs.

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Analysis
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The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on Microsoft's plans to install seven executives to serve as chief financial officers for its seven autonomous business units. Under the plan, which was detailed for financial analysts Thursday, current CFO John Connors will serve as the company's uber finance guy. The new co-CFOs, many of whom have been hired away from the Fortune 100, will report directly to the heads of the business units.

The theory behind the move is that it will allow CEO Steve Ballmer to focus more on competitive issues such as Linux, rather than get bogged down in financial minutiae. SearchWin2000.com's Margie Semilof spoke to analysts and customers for their reaction to the move, and the consensus is that business units such as the server and Windows groups will now be free of the corporate yoke that currently prevents them from being more responsive to customers' individual pricing and licensing needs.

One potential drawback analysts see is in the whole "synergy" thing. With so much autonomy within Microsoft, will Redmond's corporate message get muddied? And will its products become disconnected? We'll soon find out.

In other news this week, Microsoft is using the traditionally slow summer news season to inflict death by a thousand product announcements. Trouble is, there really isn't a whole lot of substance to what's being announced.

Here's a taste:

-- Microsoft has added the word "live" to the name of its real-time communications software. Microsoft Office Live Communications Server is expected to debut in the fall. Redmond promises pricing and licensing details in the middle of August.

-- A scaled-down version of SQL Server Reporting Services will be available by the end of the year for free to those who already have SQL Server 2000 licenses. The set of reporting tools for database and other IT professionals are expected to be a major feature when Yukon is released later in 2004 as the next-generation SQL Server.

-- Microsoft plans to release a trimmed down version -- or standard edition -- of Content Management Server 2002 later this year. The software is aimed squarely at the little guy. With a 15-user limit, the software will let smaller businesses build and manage content for the Web.

And what Microsoft news wrap-up would be complete without a discussion of vulnerabilities?

This week's crop included a hole discovered across the Windows platform that affects media applications. The vulnerability in the DirectX graphics and multimedia routines earned a label of "critical" from Microsoft, which offers DirectX version 9.0b on its site as a patch.

The other major vulnerability involves Windows passwords. Swiss researchers demonstrated they could crack a Windows password in a lightening-fast 13.6 seconds. A member of the team told CNET there's a very simple reason why Windows passwords are a breeze to beat: "They do not include any random information."

Who says the Swiss are always neutral?

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Redmond's restructuring draws praise

Pricing for 'real-time' tools to be revealed in August

Microsoft slims down content management software

MS to reveal more about reporting tools

Cracking Windows passwords in seconds

Widespread Windows hole discovered

Dig deeper on Windows Operating System Management

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