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Friday, September 03, 2004

Microsoft's increased focus on security is having unintended consequences via Economist

IN RECENT years, Microsoft has focused on three big tasks: building robust security into its software, resolving numerous antitrust complaints against it and upgrading its Windows operating system. These three tasks are now starting to collide.On August 27th the firm said that the successor to its Windows XP operating system, code-named Longhorn, will go on sale in 2006 without one if its most impressive features: a technique to integrate elaborate search capabilities into nearly all desktop applications. (On the bright side, Longhorn will contain advances in rendering images and enabling different computing platforms to exchange data directly between applications.) It is a big setback for Microsoft, which considers search technology a pillar of its future growth—not least as it competes against Google.Microsoft's decision to forgo new features in return for better security is one that most computer users will probably applaud.Yet ironically, as Microsoft slowly improves the security of its products—by, for instance, incorporating firewall technology, anti-virus systems and spam filters—its actions increasingly start to resemble those that, in the past, have got the firm into trouble with regulators. Is security software an “adjacent software market”, in which case Microsoft may be leveraging its dominance of the operating system into it? Integrating security products into Windows might be considered “bundling” which, with regard to web browsing, so excited America's trustbusters in the 1990s. And building security directly into the operating system seems a lot like “commingling” software code. Clearly tough times lay ahead for Microsoft to manage growth and be the leader by innovation or by delivering top-of-the-line software.
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