Microsoft security: Opportunity or threat?

commentary Can Microsoft turn security from a liability to an asset? According to Ina Fried, a senior reporter with ZDNet Australia's sister site CNET News.

commentary Can Microsoft turn security from a liability to an asset?
Iain Ferguson, News Editor, ZDNet Australia

According to Ina Fried, a senior reporter with ZDNet Australia's sister site CNET News.com, the software heavyweight is looking at ways to get a more concrete return on its investment -- both technical and marketing -- in security.

While Microsoft's efforts in security have gone a long way towards protecting and reassuring its customers, the company is now looking to ramp up its efforts to make money from the area.

Redmond's initiatives include the forthcoming Client Protection software designed to defend business desktops, laptops and file servers against malicious code attacks and enhanced security features in the Vista operating system update.

The shift in thinking comes just four years after Bill Gates launched the Trusted Computing Initiative and underlines the capability of Microsoft to transform a weakness into a strength.

However, the vendor must tread a little carefully when it comes to looking at security as a multi-billion dollar opportunity rather than a threat. While Redmond's market dominance can occasionally give it tin-ear syndrome when it comes to listening to its customers, the company must take heed of the ill will security difficulties are continuing to generate.

Aggrieved businesses may point out to their Microsoft account managers that the company should be fixing the security problems in its existing product set. Looking instead to use security to squeeze more cash from its customers could be construed as a slap in the face.

The harsh reality is that Microsoft's monthly security update continues to include a welter of new patches for existing problems. (Its most-recent update comprised seven fixes, including a "critical" patch for a Windows Meta File vulnerability in Internet Explorer).

Your writer is willing to bet that information and communications technology (ICT) buyers will just once again look at the value-for-money and fitness-for-purpose equation and grudgingly get out the chequebook. After all, what choice do they really have?

What do you think? Should Microsoft treat improving security as an obligation to its customers rather than a revenue opportunity? E-mail us at edit@zdnet.com.au and let us know.

Iain Ferguson is the News Editor of ZDNet Australia.