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Microsoft wants open source suppliers to adopt Palladium

Bill Goodwin
Microsoft will actively encourage rival software suppliers and the open source community to incorporate its controversial Palladium security technology into their products, as it attempts to create a groundswell of support for the next generation of operating systems.

In an interview with Computer Weekly, Stuart Okin, Microsoft's UK chief security officer, said it was in Microsoft's interests to make the licensing of Palladium as attractive as possible to competitors and to offer them favourable licensing terms.

His comments follow fears that Palladium, a technology which will allow software and content suppliers to electronically enforce copyright of documents and files, will effectively tie end-users into Microsoft systems and boost its position as a monopoly supplier.

But Okin insisted that Microsoft would encourage rival firms and open source companies to take up the Palladium technology.

"If we are going to have a trusted relationship between organisations that run Microsoft and organisations that run open source, it is in the interests of all of us [to license Palladium]. Otherwise the technology will not get adopted. We will not be moving forward," he said.

The company is planning a major communications exercise to persuade IT directors of the advantages of Palladium for improving online security and privacy.

Next week, John Manfredelli, general manager of Microsoft's Palladium unit, will answer criticism of the project at a conference of IT directors organised by supporters of the open source movement. He is also expected to meet privately with leading critics of the system, Okin revealed.

Palladium has already won backing from some prominent members of the open source community. Eadie Bleasdale, consultant at Netproject, which is organising next week's conference, said that although there are genuine concerns about Palladium it can offer end-users significant advantages.

"Unless we have secure end-to-end computing, we have no right to move to distributed computing. Palladium now gives us the basis of saying we have secure end-to-end computing," he said.

However, analysts believe Microsoft will face an uphill struggle to win the trust of its customers. "This is much more a political and philosophical battle than a technology battle. The biggest issue facing Microsoft is persuading people to trust not Palladium but Microsoft," said Tony Lock, an analyst at Bloor Research.

Lock believes that attempts by Microsoft to win over the open source community are bound to fail. "Getting the Linux community to pay for open source is extremely unlikely, particularly if the supplier is Microsoft. If Palladium becomes supplier-independent, run by an independent body, then the idea might have currency."

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