Trusted computing locks in users, expert warns

IT directors have been urged to lobby their MPs following concerns that the next generation of desktop computer systems could...

IT directors have been urged to lobby their MPs following concerns that the next generation of desktop computer systems could contain technology that will make it harder for IT departments to switch to alternative suppliers.

Trusted computing technology, currently being developed by 190 leading suppliers including Intel and Microsoft, has the potential to lock businesses more deeply into propriety technology than ever before, delegates at a London conference heard last week.

Ross Anderson, head of the Computer Laboratory at Cambridge University and one of the most vocal critics of the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance and Microsoft's Palladium operating system, urged IT professionals to be prepared for the impact that trusted computing will have on their IT contracts in a few years' time.

"You may find that large quantities of your corporate data are sealed to applications written by specific suppliers. This means that even now you have to start thinking, when you commit to new application suppliers about what sort of terms you put in the contract," Anderson said.

There are a couple of years in which IT professionals can lobby politicians, he said.

Supporters of the technology, however, believe competition will ensure that suppliers do not do anything to upset users. Stefek Zaba, computer scientist at HP labs in Bristol, said Anderson's concerns represented only a theoretical risk. "I am not sure it is the right time to say, 'This dark future is staring us in the face, we need to mobilise now brothers'."

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