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Tighter code part of Microsoft security effort, Gates says

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates offered some specifics on security, as well as a boost for business-process modeling, during a session Monday at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo.

SAN DIEGO -- Speech and handwriting recognition will join security as key areas of research and development for Microsoft in the future, Bill Gates said today at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo.

In an on-stage interview with Gartner Inc. CEO Michael Fleischman, Gates also said that Microsoft plans to do more to help IT organizations conform to business processes, a concept that the company's chairman and chief software architect referred to as "modeling."

On the issue of software security, Gates said that Microsoft is working on limiting the parts of the Windows operating system that may be vulnerable to attack, while also streamlining Microsoft's code. But in an acknowledgement that hackers will always try to exploit weaknesses, Gates said that his company is focusing its effort on isolating viruses and other threats once they have entered a system, so that damage can be limited.

Gates was somewhat conciliatory when discussing security. "Yes, we could do a lot better," he admitted.

Gates also discussed the importance of changing protocols so that systems can accurately identify an e-mail's sender, helping to reduce spam and other e-mail related problems.

Sophos sees improvement by Microsoft

Jesse Dougherty, a conference attendee and director of development at Abingdon, England-based information security firm Sophos PLC, said that Microsoft is showing improvement in this area and that tangible results of progress are evident.

During the interview, Gates also identified some technologies that he felt would be important over the next 10 years. A decade from now, speech and handwriting will be common ways of interacting with devices, Gates said. "People are so underestimating advances in IT tools and devices and how they are administered," he said.

Speech technology will driven in part by mobility, because speech often represents a much easier way to interface with small mobile devices, he said. Though speech has been hyped -- and has failed -- as a technology before, Gates said that, in the next decade, it will become an integral part of the user interface in computing.

"Be skeptical, but we are putting our money where our mouth is," Gates said, referring to Redmond's $6.8 billion annual research and development budget.

The handwriting is on the wall

Handwriting-recognition software, which Microsoft introduced in its Tablet PC operating system last year, will see an increase in adoption because of IT workers' need to annotate documents so they can better collaborate with one another.

Gates also discussed a concept he called "modeling," which is something that, he said, will help businesses take better advantage of the applications they use. With modeling, Gates said, businesses will be able to tailor applications to their specific business needs without having to write a lot of code.

The idea is to be able to use a GUI to modify and tailor applications, and then drill down into them to retrieve data. Gates said that modeling technology would not make software from companies such as SAP irrelevant. On the contrary, he said, it would help make them those applications more valuable, because modeling would sit on top of software such as SAP's.

Tailor-made business software

Brian Emerson, a conference attendee and product manager with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Remedy, a BMC Software company, said that his clients are looking for more customization in their software. Increasingly, he said, they want to be able to tailor applications to their own businesses processes.

Fleischman did not ask Gates any questions concerning open source software, but it was on the minds of some at the conference.

Kent Strachan, an attendee and director of end-user computing and networks at Telus Mobility Co., a Java-based software development company in Scarborough, Ontario, said that he has yet to see any compelling reason to adopt Microsoft's products.

Though his organization has experimented with Microsoft software platforms, Strachan said, they did not have the open-enterprise focus that he was looking for. "There are a lot of costs in making such a transition to Microsoft," Strachan said. "The question is, 'Is there real-world value there?'"


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