IE 7.0 Highlights RSA Security Onslaught

With the big RSA Conference going on in San Francisco this week, security once again rules the news. But we’ve got a smattering of other topics to cover, including more Longhorn ponderings, one pundit’s report on the impending demise of Microsoft, an early peek at one of our March stories, and a woman who credits Bill Gates with curing her PMS.

Gates Delivers Beefy Keynote
Bill Gates used his keynote address at RSA yesterday to announce a slew of security products and initiatives, topped by news of plans to deliver a beta of Internet Explorer 7.0 this summer. The next version of IE had been pegged to Longhorn, but will now — presumably — be delivered sooner, with security enhancements above and beyond those delivered in Windows XP SP2, including defenses against spyware and other malicious software. Apparently all the stories about IE’s shrinking market share have not escaped Redmond, which last released a new IE version in 2001.

Gates also announced Microsoft will come up with its own anti-virus engine, based on technology acquired along with GeCAD. That engine will be among the many supported by the Antigen product from Sybari, which Microsoft acquired last week. I doubt they’ll admit it, but that is not likely to sit well with the various Microsoft partners that hawk anti-virus software – although Microsoft has been down that road many times. One early example was when it incorporated TCP/IP into Windows 95, eventually putting a number of TCP/IP stack vendors out of business. One day not long from now you will likely hear someone say, “You mean you used to have to buy anti-virus software?”

Already Gates is promising to make Windows anti-spyware available at no charge. He also used his speech to announce ISA Server 2004 Enterprise Edition has been released to manufacturing.

Shooting Phish in a Pool
Also at RSA, Microsoft, eBay (and its PayPal subsidiary) and Visa announced they were joining the Phish Report Network, an anti-phishing aggregation service run by the security firm WholeSecurity. The idea is that victims of phishing attacks will report the offending senders to WholeSecurity for inclusion in a central database of known phishing sites. For $15,000 per year, any company can access the database and get notifications of new sites, enabling them to block access to the sites. The vision is that ISPs will also sign up and protect their customers from known phishing sites. The idea makes sense on the face of it, but the $15,000 price tag will likely be tough for many companies to stomach on top of the 143 other security tools they need. Here’s hoping lots of ISPs do jump on board, though.

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money
Microsoft is also going on the offensive against spammers, teaming up with Pfizer Inc. to file a total of 17 lawsuits against spammers hawking generic or counterfeit versions of Pfizer’s famous (infamous?) drug which I don’t want to name because this e-mail will likely get bounced as spam if I do. Suffice to say it rhymes with Niagra. Microsoft is targeting online pharmacies and the spammers who inundate Hotmail users with ads for the pharmacies, charging they are in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, among other laws. This, my friends, is great news. Deep-pocketed mega companies vs. cheesy online scumbags. I like Redmond’s chances. Inundate the spammers with lawyers and don’t let up till the last bit has spewed from their foul servers.

Windows Server 2003 SP1
It’s not getting as much attention as Windows XP Service Pack 2, and deservedly so, but Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 nonetheless includes some welcome security enhancements. Last week Microsoft posted a second Release Candidate version of the product, with the final version due out in the first half of the year. Don Jones weighs in on SP1 in his Redmond magazine BetaMan column this month and generally likes what he sees.

Scott Bekker, Redmond’s news editor and editor of our sister site ENTmag.com, this week posted a valuable special report, “6 Key Security Improvements in Windows Server 2003 SP1.”

Anyone Care About Longhorn?
Bekker also reports this week that a senior Microsoft official says Longhorn Beta 1 is on track for the first half of this year.

The beta won't include WinFS, and Avalon and Indigo are no longer Longhorn exclusives. The original "three pillars" of Longhorn have each gone their separate ways. Which begs the question, “Does anyone really care about Longhorn?” This non-answer from a blog written by Robert Scoble, technical evangelist at Microsoft, was no help.

We’ll be looking to provide a meatier response to that question in an upcoming Redmond magazine feature. If you’d like to weigh in with your take, drop me a line at pdesmond@redmondmag.com or post below.

R.I.P. Microsoft?
Longhorn may have its problems, but I’ll stop (far) short of saying it spells the demise of Microsoft. Michael Malone, a longtime technology business reporter, cites Longhorn as one piece of evidence that suggests the “first hints of rot” are emanating from Microsoft.

After tooting his own horn for previous predictions of the demise of Silicon Graphics and Hewlett-Packard (where he seems to equate the firing a CEO with the destruction of a company), Malone tries to make the case that Microsoft is on a downward slope. While he makes some decent points along the way, my money says Microsoft won’t be bottoming out anytime soon.

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Another Victim of Microsoft Math
Microsoft last week said its CRM 2.0 product is being delayed for the second time, till the end of the year. The product was originally slated to ship last August, then was delayed till the first half of this year. CRM 2.0 was highlighted by one of the customers we talked to for our “Microsoft Math” feature, which examines Microsoft’s track record in terms of hitting product ship dates, to help you predict future results. The story will appear in the March issue of Redmond magazine, which hits the streets in about two weeks. But we’ve posted an early version online just for Redmond Report Weekly readers.

You Call This an Executive E-mail?
I recall a time when an official Microsoft Executive E-mail was a big deal, announcing company wide efforts like dominating the Internet, or securing it. Those days have apparently gone the way of the $2 Bud six-pack, if the Bill Gates interoperability memo issued early this month is any indication. Allow me to sum it up: “We like XML! We really do!”

Dr. Gates to the Rescue
Score another big win for Bill Gates. A writer on Salon.com is giving him credit for curing her PMS. It’s a funny piece and, to quote Forrest Gump, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Interesting Places to Work
We’re putting together a Ten column on interesting places to work. Maybe an off-the-wall location makes life interesting, you produce cool products that make for a fun atmosphere, or you get to work with cutting edge technology. Whatever the case may be, if you or someone you know works for a particularly interesting company, let me know.

That’s it for now. Red Sox pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. No matter what the groundhog says, that’s a sure sign of spring.

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