When Microsoft conspiracy theories spin out of control

Summary:Take off your tin-foil hats, folks. Microsoft has been so completely burned by security problems with Windows in recent years that there is just no way anyone at the company, on down, would suggest users shut off their firewalls, remove their antivirus software or do anything to further comprise the already delicate security balance in which Windows operates.

Two days ago, Jim Allchin, Microsoft Co-President of Platforms and Services, announced that Microsoft released Windows Vista to manufacturing. In the 48 hours since then, a number of reporters and bloggers have been jumping all over the fact that Allchin admitted during the press conference following the RTM announcement that his seven-year-old son is running Vista on his PC without having an anti-virus program installed.

I've always been one to question Microsoft's motives and double-speak. But it is completely misleading to paint Allchin's acknowledgement that his son -- running a heavily locked-down, parental-control-ridden PC, in non-admin mode (one would pretty safey assume) -- isn't running a Microsoft- and/or third-party-developed AV program means Microsoft is claiming Vista is so solid that it doesn't require AV software.

Did Allchin make a mistake in his attempt to prove that Vista is far more secure than any previous version of Windows, including XP SP2? Yes. He should not have suggested that any users, even those with Windows chiefs as their fathers, can or should forego antivirus software.

But now this story has now taken on a whole other life of its own. One IT professional pinged me on instant messaging this morning, asking me whether I heard "Microsoft is telling Vista users that they no longer need AV software." Another report implied that Allchin dropped the nugget about his son in order to try to stick it to McAfee and Symantec for complaining about PatchGuard. Next thing you know, we'll hear that Allchin doesn't even really have a seven-year-old son and that he fabricated the entire scenario in order to tank the stocks of its competitors, while hopefully buoying Microsoft's own.

Take off your tin-foil hats, folks. Microsoft has been so completely burned by security problems with Windows in recent years that there is just no way anyone at the company, from Chairman Gates -- who, granted, couldn't resist making a castration reference, in regards to Microsoft's security partners/competitors today -- on down, would suggest users shut off their firewalls, remove their AV software or do anything to further compromise the already delicate security balance in which Windows operates.

Update: On Friday, Allchin attempted to put a halt to the interpretations of his comments around Vista and the need for antivirus software in a post to the Vista team blog. "I could certainly see that what I said wasn’t as clear as it could have been, and I’m sorry for that," Allchin blogged. "However, it is also clear from the transcript that I didn’t say that users shouldn’t run antivirus software with Windows Vista!"

 

Topics: Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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