How will Microsoft balance security with usability?Microsoft software is now more secure with further improvements from the 'trustworthy computing' programme in the pipeline, according to a Bill Gates email to customers this week.
That, along with the recent acknowledgement that beefing up security is slowing down its product development roadmap, shows Microsoft really is serious about this – and you'd be foolish to underestimate Gates and Co.
Gates cited a drop in the number of "critical" and "important" security warnings for Windows Server 2003 compared to Windows 2000 Server, along with improvements to Windows XP in the next service pack, and other 'intelligent protection' technologies that are currently being researched – although this has to be placed in the context in an industry-wide fall in the number of software flaws last year.
And at a recent technology conference one Microsoft representative admitted that the reputation of the company rests on it making a success of 'trustworthy computing' – "If we don't we're in trouble," he said.
But one of the key factors will be how it manages to maintain a balance between ease of use and security. The 'old' Microsoft was firmly in the former camp. The danger with its security push is that it will go too far in the other direction and simply lock all its products down by installing all the security features as default.
IT managers may end up spending less time installing patches and dealing with virus infections but instead spend all their time configuring Windows so it's easy to use.
Microsoft's progress is to be applauded but there's still an awful long way to go and Longhorn will be the first real test of the new 'secure' Microsoft.