01/28/2005: Thought for the Day:
Like every Microsoft initiative, this anti-virus/spyware is intended to serve multiple purposes. The new plan is based around extending to new customers Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS). The penetration of SMS hasn't been fast or far enough for Gates and Ballmer, but targeting viruses and spyware might change that situation dramatically. It has been Microsoft's dream since the early 1990s to move their software licensing to a subscription or usage based model. The original design of SMS was to put in place the infrastructure needed for this -- unbeknownst to customers. Just not enough of us bought into the concept for the transition to fully take place. Until now.
I am sure that A1, as it is called, has more revenue and business goals than security goals. And if Microsoft chooses to let it support their older operating systems, they could gain a huge control over Windows licenses worldwide.
AND EVEN THAT MIGHT BE OKAY IF MICROSOFT REALLY DID THE JOB RIGHT.
But they probably won't.
Here is the problem. To sell an anti-virus (and/or anti-spyware) product, those pesky customers will probably have some expectation the products will work, will continue to work, and will be supported. When something bad happens, the customers will expect a quick and decisive response. Culturally, none of this is something Microsoft has done well. Historically, Microsoft has followed a "what you see is what you get" model, which in the world of data security, with 24/7 command centers and wall-sized video screens, won't fly.
Certainly, Microsoft's history and culture will be working against them. At the heart of this anti-ware initiative, Microsoft has acquired a couple small companies and will be relying on those people, but Microsoft also tends to beat into submission new acquisitions, and typically ignores their input until it has been vetted by sophomoric Redmond hazing. "We'll buy your company, we'll tell the world it is the best technology, we'll make users dependent on it, but of course, we won't listen to you because you haven't watched Bill G rock back and forth one million times like we have. Until then, you are scum."
This is not a joke.
Up until now Microsoft has avoided this stuff like the plague. But now something has changed. It might be the pressure to make SMS a success. It might be the new revenue potential. It might even be pressure from Homeland Security. Whatever the reason, I strongly suggest we all sit this one out for a year or until Bill rocks another million times, whichever comes first.
--Robert X. Cringely [pbs.org]
Len on 01.28.05 @ 07:24 AM CST