Tag Archives: Technology

Ten Years After Bill Gates’ Trustworthy Computing Memo

Ten years ago yesterday, Bill Gates sent out his Trustworthy Computing memo that marked a significant change in the culture at Microsoft and put security, privacy and reliability at the center of the company as ideals.

I was at Microsoft as part of the Microsoft Security Response Center when that came out. And until I left Microsoft in December 2010, I was involved in security and privacy. So I have a former insider’s long-term view of what that was all like.

As my former colleagues are marking the occasion I’m sharing my own thoughts on what it meant then and what it means for the future.

Here are my comments in Robert X. Cringly’s article “PC security: We’ve come a long way, baby“. And a longer write-up by me over at Betanews “10 years after Bill Gates’ Trustworthy Computing memo: What it meant for Microsoft and why every tech company needs one“.

It was something to be a part of, but the world is different today. Part of my take on it is how this is still relevant in this different world.

The Future of Music

One thing I found when I was at Microsoft is that my work had affected a shift in focus in regards to technology. Because new things ALWAYS have security problems, my work as a security person really made me incredibly conservative and risk averse as regards new technology.

In fact, I would joke when people would ask me if I was playing with something new that I don’t learn about a new technology until I have to patch it.

I’ve been making a point to roll that back and play with technology once again. To find that sense of play and wonder that I used to have.

One area I’ve been doing that in is in regards to music. And so I’ve been playing more and more with online music services. Pandora, Last.fm, and now Spotify.

I’m still learning what each does best, but I do have to say that I think we’re reaching a tipping point where the future of music is primarily in the form of online subscriptions rather than “owning” music.

Anyone that knows me knows that’s a huge thing for me to say. I’ve generally been of the “I want my own copy” school of thought. And there’s definitely a place for that still with rare and hard to find pieces.

But, with all of these options, it’s hard for me to see myself “buying” a CD or MP3 of something that’s widely available.

Another thing I’m finding about this new trend is the ability to find new and interesting music. Both Pandora and Last.fm in particular have models that help support that.

It’s interesting to see how this will continue to develop.

Say You Want a Revolution

In the interest of full disclosure, this is adapted from a comment I made in Robert Scoble’s blog today.

So Microsoft today spent 6 Billion on an advertising company, aQuantive. First, I have to say, that’s one of the ugliest sounding names I’ve heard in quite some time.

More importantly, I think if they rummaged around in the sofa they could’ve found another billion and bought Chrysler instead. Given the complete lack of any stated vision or direction coming out of Microsoft these days, buying aQuantive isn’t all that different from them buying Chrysler. I doubt Ballmer et al. really know what they’ll do with it. They’ve just got some vague idea that since other people are doing well with advertising, they need to as well. Setting aside the fact that I’m deeply skeptical about online advertising at all (how much money have you spent, dear reader, as a result of clicking on a “sponsored link”?) this is another demonstration of weakness from Microsoft.

The current strategy there seems to be to copy a lot of other people’s stuff (Apple: Vista; Google: Search) that than really find anything new on their own. OK, so that’s not the first time the charge has been made but I’d argue things are different now from the past. In the past, when Microsoft followed others into established markets there was some direction to it. Now there’s no plan. It just looks like they’re just doing stuff to do stuff.

As a long time watcher of Microsoft, I have to say it’s pretty clear that Ballmer is grossly incompetent as a CEO. Carly Fiorina was sacked over her performance and he’s done significantly worse for Microsoft than she did for HP. The fact that he’s not been sacked speaks to a board that is failing its shareholders. And I think that’s the why of the stock price. It’s going nowhere because of a Ballmer tax. No one has faith in the value of the company under his leadership and they don’t think he’s going anytime soon because MS has a rubber-stamp board. Buying MS is essentially buying to hold until Ballmer is gone and someone with vision comes to the helm.

The words of Cromwell to the rump parliament apply to Ballmer and the board:
You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.

It really is time for a shareholder rebellion. The only people doing well at Microsoft are the executives and the board. Time to remind everyone who they all work for: the shareholders.

Of course, the biggest shareholder IS one of the executives. And that means nothing’s going to change soon.