Article

Who's afraid of Microsoft?

John Hogan

The fallout -- and intrigue -- generated by a research report critical of Microsoft continues. While not exactly the Pentagon Papers, a high-tech trade group's scathing indictment of a software "monoculture" dominated by Windows cost the lead author his job and created an industry buzz that has yet to die down.

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Analysis
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The central point of the

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report, issued by the Computer & Communications Industry Association, was that IT systems will never be secure if governments allow Microsoft to maintain a stranglehold on the market for operating system software.

Slamming Microsoft proved to be a quixotic quest for Dan Geer, the chief technology officer for security consultancy AtStake.

Geer told The Washington Post's Jonathan Krim, "Nature does not put up with monocultures. If everything looks just alike … it will promptly be punished." As it turns out, it was Geer who was punished. With lightning speed, AtStake canned Geer and distanced itself from his remarks.

Microsoft said it had nothing to do with Geer's ouster, and the software maker's chief technology officer, Craig Mundie, refuted claims made in the security report. Mundie said the notion of 100% secure software is folly and that the best anyone can hope for is the creation of an IT "immune system" made up of computers and networks.

Strangely, Krim followed his piece in The Post a few days later with a story about how Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is trying to shed the company's corporate-bully image by building warmer relations with customers, partners and government officials.

AtStake's jittery reaction to the Geer report shows just how great a challenge it will be for Microsoft to change how people perceive it.

Bay State warms to open-source

Massachusetts, not known for having a great fondness for Microsoft, this week outlined a policy to move the state in the direction of open-source. This isn't the work of wide-eyed liberals, either. The administration of pro-business Republican Gov. Mitt Romney said that, from now on, when the state needs to buy information technology, it will look first to open-source and open standards to see whether there's a good fit.

Eric Kriss, the state's secretary for administration and finance, told SearchWin2000.com's Margie Semilof that such a policy will save Massachusetts money and establish the state as a model of IT efficiency for other governments to follow.

Microsoft sounds like a company ready to throw in the towel on using patches to secure computer systems. Redmond acknowledges that myriad patches are wearing down administrators to the point that hotfixes are simply being ignored. CNET quoted Orlando Ayala, Microsoft's top small-business guy, as saying the software maker has a better idea. If you want to know what that idea is, however, you'll have to wait.

Ayala teased CNET with a concept he called "securing the perimeter," but he declined to elaborate, except to say it has something to do with firewalls. Look for the "vision" to come out at next week's Microsoft partner convention in New Orleans.

The IM vision thing

One IT vision that is pretty clear is a world in which instant messaging clients learn to work together. This week, Microsoft and the media giant Reuters announced that they would work to make their respective IM products interoperable. Reuters has already forged ties with IBM's Lotus unit and AOL for IM support.

Powerful companies can instantly learn to cooperate when the sweet smell of revenue wafts under their noses.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

The full text of the Geer security report

Microsoft official rebuts Windows report

Microsoft: Software's gentler giant?

Massachusetts budget czar bullish on open-source

Microsoft moves beyond patches

Reuters reaches IM deal with Microsoft


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