Gates is a tough act to follow

What Jerry Lewis is to the Labor Day Telethon, Bill Gates is to Comdex. If ever a day comes when Gates opts out of headlining the annual Las Vegas event, the IT community will be the lesser for it.

This year, Microsoft's chief software architect did a round of media interviews before and during Comdex, and -- no surprise here -- Windows security was the topic du jour. The surprise came when he told an InformationWeek interviewer that there will be a "night-and-day" difference in the security of Microsoft software by the middle of next year.

That's some pretty brash talk from a company whose software got its pockets picked on a regular basis this year. Gates attributes his fresh confidence to Microsoft's new security tools, bug testing and a change in the way software patches are delivered to customers.

Utility computing was also on Gates' mind this week at Comdex. While IBM sees no downside to a world in which IT resources are delivered on demand, Redmond's ambassador at-large urges a little more caution.

Utility computing's downside

Gates told CNET that it makes perfect sense to hire someone to run your Web site. It's an entirely different matter to hand over the keys to IT to an outsider. Why? If an organization's critical IT systems are put in the hands of others, Gates said, that organization will have to enter into costly and time-consuming negotiations with a provider every time the system requires modification.

That's on demand, and out of pocket.

Thousands of miles way, at another IT conference, Microsoft was a hot topic, too. In the opening session at the Gartner Application Integration and Web Services Summit in Baltimore, Roy Schulte waxed poetic about how Microsoft's coming Indigo initiative will be a multi-service enterprise service bus for delivering Web services. During his address, Schulte, a vice president at IT consultancy Gartner Inc., happened to mention that Indigo will be a part of Longhorn when that version of Windows ships in "2006 or 2007."

Whoa. Don't even the most pessimistic predictions for Longhorn call for a 2006 delivery?

Actually, it turns out that Schulte isn't the only one with 2007 on the brain for Longhorn. While taking a slap at Microsoft after speaking recently in San Francisco, Sun Microsystems vice president Jonathan Schwartz also referred to the 2007 time frame when talking about Longhorn.

Hmm. Do these guys know something that the rest of us don't?

Good news for Exchange 2003 users

Back in the here and now, there's good news for those who are planning to migrate to Exchange Server 2003. Users of Microsoft's newest messaging platform will soon get a spam-filtering technology called SmartScreen. The tool is expected to be available sometime in the first half of next year and will be part of the Exchange Intelligent Message Filter. If you have a Software Assurance license, the tool is yours free.

Free is also the operative word for some lucky Microsoft user group members. Redmond has kicked off a free training program for Exchange 2003 that is being handled by Microsoft training partners and offered through special arrangements with user groups. The first block of these sessions is being held in the Boston area. More of these invitation-only "Loadfests" are expected in other cities.

And finally, there are shocking reports of some fibbing in connection with a Microsoft business deal -- or non-business deal, as the case may be.

Recently, The New York Times reported that Microsoft had talked to Google about acquiring the top search engine. This week, Bill Gates said that such talks never happened. As San Jose Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor says, somebody here isn't telling the truth.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Gates sets timetable for security improvements

Utility computing has its downside, Gates says

Microsoft to offer more spears to skewer spam

'Loadfest' tour offers free Exchange training

Someone's lying about Google talks

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