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“Windows is fundamentally insecure and unreliable”
The early parts of the first decade of this century were a nightmare for Microsoft and its customers. The combination of a monopoly share of the market, minimal security awareness, and a criminal community that had discovered the Internet with a vengeance meant that malware was a fact of life for every Windows user, at home and in the office.
That all began to change in 2002, when Bill Gates basically slammed on the brakes at Microsoft and forced a fundamental reassessment of how security issues are handled. Allow me to quote myself:
As a result of the Trustworthy Computing initiative, Microsoft introduced a massive change in the way it develops software. The Security Development Lifecycle has paid off hugely over the last 10 years and has been widely praised and copied.
In addition to building a more disciplined process for writing secure code, Microsoft has improved its update infrastructure and worked closely with outside security experts and third-party developers to improve the way their products work. Over time, Microsoft has built its own antivirus and network intrusion software; now that the 2001 antitrust agreement has officially ended, that software will finally appear in Windows itself.
These days, most successful exploits come through vulnerabilities in third-party software. A brand-new report from Secunia, for example, notes that Microsoft has two-thirds of the software in the top 50 list on the average PC, but only 24 percent of the vulnerabilities. And even when those vulnerabilities occur, Microsoft customers are generally well protected:
It is one thing that third-party programs are responsible for the majority of vulnerabilities on a typical PC, rather than Microsoft programs. However, another very important security factor is how easy it is to update Microsoft programs compared to third-party programs. Quite simply, the automation with which Microsoft security updates are made available to end users – through auto-updates, Configuration Management systems and update services – ensures that it is a reasonably simple task to protect private PCs and corporate infrastructures from the vulnerabilities discovered in Microsoft products. This is not so with the large number of third-party vendors, many of whom lack either the capabilities, resources or security focus to make security updates automatically and easily available,” said Secunia CTO, Morten R. Stengaard.
Thanks to its massive footprint, Microsoft software is still a massive target. It’s a well-protected target, fortunately. And if you think otherwise, you might be living in 1998. Coincidentally, it’s a 1998-era PC (shown above) that Apple uses to illustrate a PC in Finder. I guess they’re too busy fixing horrifying SSL bugs to actually replace that icon with a modern Windows PC.
“Xbox should be spun off into a separate business”
One influential financial analyst has been pounding the table for this change for the past year or so, all in the interest of “unlocking shareholder value.”
While it’s true that Xbox had a string of losses in its early years, those are sunk costs. The platform today is at least break-even and probably profitable. It spawns games that can bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. More important, it is a well-loved Microsoft brand that is widely available in hundreds of millions of living rooms, where it has the potential to tie into other Microsoft services and expand Microsoft’s reach into the consumer market. Do you really want to give those all up if you’re a Microsoft shareholder? I didn’t think so.
And finally, there’s the pure technical side. The technology that drives Xbox, both as a gaming platform and as an entertainment hub (that’s a big growth business, by the way), comes straight out of the same groups that build Windows. If you sell the company, how do you expect the Xbox developers to extend their platform?
No, Xbox belongs in Redmond. The only people who would applaud a spinoff are vulture capitalists who skim off profits as they drive a once-proud company into the ground.
Make them go away.
“The ‘One Microsoft’ reorg is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”
Poor Steve Ballmer. Despite leading a fundamental transformation of Microsoft from a software licensing powerhouse to one that has a strong future in cloud-based services, he gets no respect.
So the “One Microsoft” reorganization that he instituted last July is as misunderstood as Rodney Dangerfield. Here’s the key paragraph from Ballmer’s memo:
We are rallying behind a single strategy as one company — not a collection of divisional strategies. Although we will deliver multiple devices and services to execute and monetize the strategy, the single core strategy will drive us to set shared goals for everything we do. We will see our product line holistically, not as a set of islands. We will allocate resources and build devices and services that provide compelling, integrated experiences across the many screens in our lives, with maximum return to shareholders. All parts of the company will share and contribute to the success of core offerings, like Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, Surface, Office 365 and our EA offer, Bing, Skype, Dynamics, Azure and our servers. All parts of the company will contribute to activating high-value experiences for our customers.
You can already see hints of how radical this new approach is. At Mobile World Congress, the big news about Windows 8.1 Update 1 came from Joe Belfiore, who until recently was exclusively a Windows Phone guy. Inside the company, I am hearing that the reorg has already helped break down some of the silos that led Windows developers to resist cooperation with divisions that didn’t share their lofty operating margins.
This is the kind of reorganization that takes years to fully execute in a company the size of Microsoft. Fortunately, Satya Nadella appears to have embraced and even extended the concepts.