PC Expo: Microsoft outlines privacy protection policy

Microsoft Corp. outlined its online consumer protection policies while at the same time pledging not to buy ads on sites lacking similar protections.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Herbold made the announcement in a keynote address Wednesday morning at PC Expo in New York.

In particular, Microsoft is making available a new Privacy Wizard that uses a set of guidelines created by the W3C to help Web sites craft privacy policies. To encourage the proliferation of privacy policies, Microsoft will make the Privacy Wizard widely available to individuals and small businesses that create or manage Web sites. The Privacy Wizard will also be offered on Microsoft's Web site and on MSN, which has broadened its privacy statement to all 29 of its international portal sites.

Microsoft also plans to purchase advertising space only on Web sites that have comprehensive privacy policies posted by the year 2000. The company will give the sites on which it advertises a grace period to create privacy policies. But after January, "Microsoft will purchase ads only on sites with comprehensive privacy statements," Herbold said.

IBM Corp. made a similar announcement several weeks ago.

Because both companies are major buyers of online ads, the moves could carry weight with online services. Herbold also spoke about the Net's ability to hook people and organisations together. Underscoring the connected theme, Herbold stressed Microsoft's new "vision statement": "Give people and organisations the ability to do what they want, when they want to do it on any device connected to the Internet."

Connecting to the Internet will be a host of new PC designs that Herbold referred to collectively as the Future PC. "A law in marketing is that all markets fragment as they develop. That's what's happening, here," he said. "As the number of people that are using [PCs] increases, we have to get simplicity to a new level."

Future PCs, both for general purpose and targeted use, will come in a variety of form factors and be simpler to use, thanks to more natural user interfaces. They will take advantage of technologies such as flat panel displays and wireless networking and be connected to the Internet via DSL and cable.

But the Future PC isn't the only new computing platform. Bubbling their way to the surface are new intelligent appliance devices, such as those based on Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, Herbold said. Most of these device are portable, like the Palm-size PC or the Handheld PC Professional line of Windows CE-based devices from Compaq Computer Corp., Casio Inc. and others.

Other appliances will take the form of intelligent gas pumps or washing machines. Herbold offered examples of both, along with a number of new vertical applications in which Windows CE is used. For example, a gas pump could include a display giving customers information about other products or services available at the gas station.

"Every device with a screen will connect to the Internet," he said.

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