With Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing security initiative approaching its third birthday, Ballmer said, "We will be working on Trustworthy Computing for the rest of my days at Microsoft. There are 'bad people' out there and they are not going to go away."
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Security was "job number one" at Microsoft, said Ballmer, who added that despite the general impression, IT security was improving. More damage was done by virus attacks in the past than today, said the Microsoft CEO, who added that in the next two to three years the technology and user application of technology would improve security significantly.
He spoke about the development of "isolation technology" to ensure that laptops and mobile devices did not introduce viruses and malware to corporate systems. The technology is in use within Microsoft itself and will be available in Longhorn, the next generation of Windows, if not before.
As IT directors continue to battle to make the business case for IT spending, Ballmer said he was looking forward to a period of steady growth in IT spending after the "New Year's eve binge" of Y2K and the internet bubble. "We have had a two-and-a-half year drying-out period and now [IT spending] is at a stable place," he said.
In recent weeks Microsoft has been running an aggressive advertising campaign against Linux and open source software. "We are making a concerted effort to make sure the facts are communicated," said a bullish Ballmer.
He described Linux as a major threat to Microsoft since it was targeting Windows, the company's most profitable product but said Microsoft was winning the arguments about total cost of ownership of open source products.
The Microsoft CEO shrugged off questions about delays and changes in specification in Longhorn. He said that if the company had not announced its plans, users would perceive Longhorn, when it is launched in 2006, as the "biggest and best" version of Windows yet.
Ballmer acknowledged Microsoft's attention to the consumer market, but he dismissed suggestions that corporate users might lose out as the company focused on consumer products.
The company's development teams did not accept a fundamental division between consumer and corporate products, said Ballmer, who claimed 90% of Microsoft's R&D resulted in common benefits to both communities.
- An exclusive interview with Steve Ballmer on user issues such as security, licensing and open source will be published on 12 October in Computer Weekly and on Computerweekly.com.