Thought for the day:Secure PCs and see-through Windows

Hard-hitting IT commentator Dr Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.When I read the news about...

Hard-hitting IT commentator Dr Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.When I read the news about Microsoft's plans to create a "secure" PC environment with a technology called Palladium, I had a dizzy spell and had to sit down.

You can read it for yourself on CW360.com and I bet you'll need to sit down too.

Now, the idea of Microsoft building a secure PC is, well, like the idea of hospitals without waiting lists because, for all the platitudes about "trusted computing", I have yet to find anyone who really believes that Microsoft can pull it off and that trusted computing is anything more than the company "spinning" what it should have done to its products ten years ago.

In reality though, Microsoft has very little choice to do anything else but strengthen its software. Quite frankly, computer crime of one kind or another is costing business billions and governments are starting to become quite twitchy about the grip the company has on the public sector.

Microsoft either starts making really secure software or the market will steadily and incrementally move away from Microsoft.

I believe that Microsoft has seen the light. The problem is that change will take time, quite probably years, before developments at the leading edge of the company's technology filter down to the level of the desktop, where people are still using Windows 95 or Windows NT.

And that's the problem - Microsoft's incredible success, its grip on the market and the legacy software it carries with it. These successes have been, to a large extent, responsible for all the problems that still plague us.

Before Windows XP, remember the operating system really represented the software equivalent of a Russian doll. Inside every new operating system were the remains of earlier systems, one built upon the other, all the way back to DOS.

But unless we suddenly move to a network computing model, the vulnerabilities that still remain in hundred of thousands of systems will render the Microsoft-centric world vulnerable. It means years to come of buying anti-virus software licences, of hacks and cracks and worms and Trojans and more.

Microsoft, having unwittingly opened Pandora's box, is now trying to close it again with clever, innovative technology and a reassuring new "trust me, I'm from Redmond" smile.

I am, however, prepared to bet that if I bookmark my calendar for a date 12 months from now, I'll be able to look back on a catalogue of compromise and disaster, which is little better than the past 12 months.

Steve Ballmer, you have my full support. Put security first and really mean it. Rally the troops, brandish your corporate sword and shout "What we do in life, echoes in eternity."

But Steve, you must also consider that, while strengthening future products shows determination, it's the immediacy and severity of today's problems that need to be addressed by rather more than rudimentary security features in Windows XP.

Do you trust Microsoft on the security front? Tell us in an e-mail >> CW360.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and ramblings of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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