Column

Microsoft smears lipstick on a pig

Well, you can smear lipstick on a pig, but it's still a swine.

Despite chief executive Steve Ballmer's promises during his keynote speech Thursday in New Orleans, it doesn't appear that Windows will be substantially more secure anytime soon.

It's a sign of progress that Microsoft freely admits that patches are a feeble way to secure computer systems. It's also nice that the company will dedicate a Web site to security issues and update the free Software Update Services (SUS) tool. And it's dandy that it will tell OEMs to ship XP-based machines with the Windows Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) turned on. But Microsoft is being disingenuous if it expects its customers and partners to believe that these are anything more than stopgap measures.

Ballmer needs to adopt a more conciliatory approach. Reasonable people understand that software security is not a problem that can be solved overnight. If Microsoft is up front about its challenges, it might be rewarded with a little slack.

Little excitement for release dates

Recently, SearchWin2000.com asked readers to weigh in on whether they find vendors' -- specifically Microsoft's -- product release dates worthy of their attention. You know the drill: Longhorn will be released in (fill in the blank), Office 2003 ships Oct. 21, Systems Management Server goes to manufacturing Oct. 22, and so on.

One reader poll and a flood of e-mails later, we have our answer: a resounding "ho-hum."

SearchWin2000.com's Will Hurwitz wrote a piece this week highlighting some of the major themes from user e-mails on this subject. Many administrators writing in said they were more concerned about software bugs than software release dates. More than a few said it would be more useful to hear about the release dates for the first service pack after a product release.

Not everyone was down on Microsoft's product cycle, however. Some wrote that, even though projected release dates are often missed, these time frames help them with their long-term IT planning.

Forrester Research has been doing some planning of its own lately. George Colony, chief executive of the Cambridge, Mass.-based consultancy, said he has updated the firm's "integrity policy" to ban vendors who sponsor research reports from publicly blabbing about favorable results. The move stems from an embarrassing episode involving Forrester's recently acquired Giga unit. Microsoft bragged about the results of a Giga report that concluded Windows is cheaper to own than Linux. The only problem was that the report was paid for by Microsoft.

Colony defended the validity of research but admitted his firm erred in letting a sponsor publicize the results.

IDC, Gartner weigh in on Windows

Other IT consultancies had something to say about Microsoft this week.

International Data Corp. released the results of a study on the server operating system market. Not surprisingly, the server version of Windows came out on top for 2002, with 55.1% of new license shipments. The server version of Linux registered a 23.1% market share for the same period. IDC said this is about as good as it will get for Windows, though. An analyst for the firm predicted that Windows' server market share will likely top out in the neighborhood of 55%.

Gartner wasn't much more chipper on the subject of Windows. CNET reported that the research firm will issue a report today that adds its voice to the chorus crying out about the dangers of worldwide reliance on Microsoft software. The Gartner report is expected to urge businesses to diversify their desktop software or get swept up in an inevitable "cascading failure" caused by an Internet worm or virus.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Ballmer lays out Windows security plan

IT product release dates annoy, bore users

Forrester alters research policy over MS flap

Windows gains market share, despite Linux threat

Gartner echoes concerns on Microsoft reliance


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