Gates shot down over security

Microsoft should focus on making its own software more secure, instead of trying to sell security products to its customers, according to Gartner Group. The research company hit out after Microsoft made a series of announcements on its plans at a major security conference.

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By  Peter Branton Published  February 27, 2005

Microsoft should focus on making its own software more secure, instead of trying to sell security products to its customers, according to Gartner Group. The research company hit out after Microsoft made a series of announcements on its plans at a major security conference. Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates, told delegates at the RSA conference in San Francisco, US, on February 15, that the company is going to launch an antivirus (AV) product by the end of this year. It will also provide anti-spyware (AS) services free of charge to Windows users and is going to release a new version of its Internet Explorer (IE) browser, IE 7.0. Gartner analyst Neil McDonald slammed the announcements, claiming that “Microsoft has missed an opportunity” with its security strategy. “Microsoft’s over-riding goal should be to eliminate the need for AV and AS products, not simply enter the market with look-alike products at lower prices,” he said in an online advisory. The research firm believes that Microsoft will bring to the market a combined AS and AV product by the middle of this year, a move which could lead to a dramatic shake-up in one of the most lucrative technology markets around. “This move will challenge AV vendors that depend heavily on revenue from consumers, such as Symantec, and vendors that derive substantial revenue from upselling enterprises to AV product suites that include desktops and servers, such as McAfee and Computer Associates,” he said. Symantec CEO John Thompson used the same RSA event to mount a bullish defence of his company: “I don’t plan to go to the Justice Department and whine about Microsoft’s monopoly,” he told reporters. “I’d rather fight Microsoft in the marketplace, because I’m sure we’ll whip them.” While Thompson sounded confident, his firm’s revenues are heavily dependent on consumers and small businesses, customers who are most likely to be wooed by Microsoft product offerings. Microsoft has made a number of acquisitions in the security sector in recent months, including its recent announcement to purchase software firm Sybari, which makes security software for messaging servers (see IT Weekly, 19-25 February 2005). Gartner’s McDonald was also critical of Microsoft’s decision to only make its Internet Explorer 7.0 browser available to users of Windows XP SP2. “The decision to restrict IE 7.0 to the XP platform also suggests that Microsoft wants to force users of older platforms to upgrade if they want improved their security,” he said. “If Microsoft wishes to be seen as a responsible industry leader for its products and customers, it should provide IE7.0 for Windows 2000 users.”

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