Microsoft hands Palladium code preview to developers

Microsoft has handed out the code which underlies its closely watched Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) security...

Microsoft has handed out the code which underlies its closely watched Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) security technology at its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

The company also further narrowed its focus for NGSCB, previously known as Palladium, saying it is focused on putting the first version of the hardware-based security technology to work for specific business applications only.

Attendees at the conference received a developer preview of NGSCB. Developers can use this preview to get a feel of what it is like to develop an application using NGSCB security.

"This is the first code that we have put out there. It is very early stuff," said Mario Juarez, a product manager at Microsoft's Security Business Unit. "View it as an educational opportunity."

Developers who write code based on the preview get no guarantees that their code it will actually work when NGSCB ships as part of Longhorn, Juarez said.

NGSCB is a combination of hardware and software which creates a second operating environment within a PC that is meant to protect the system from malicious code by providing secure connections between applications, peripheral hardware, memory and storage. It will make its debut as part of Longhorn, the codename for the next version of Windows expected in 2006.

Microsoft is working with software makers, system integrators and large customers in the financial services, healthcare and government areas to create business applications which use NGSCB, Juarez said. These applications include document signing, secure instant messaging, viewing secure data and secure e-mail.

In the past, Microsoft had also pitched NGSCB as an important technology for consumers.

"We’re not going to have a consumer story until version two of NGSCB," said Mario Juarez, a product manager at Microsoft's Security Business Unit. No schedule has been set for the release of version two.

Microsoft said the technology could be a boon for PC users, although critics have argued that it is merely a way to deliver strong digital rights management technology that will curtail users' ability to control their own PCs and could erode fair-use rights for digital music and movie files.

NGSCB includes a new software component for Windows called a "nexus", and a chip, called the Security Support Component (SSC), which can perform cryptographic operations. It also requires changes to a PC's processor, chipset, video and input hardware. Because of the hardware requirements, users will have to buy a new PC to take advantage of NGSCB.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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