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We Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

Week of April 19, 2002
Press statements, leaked memos and rumours - that's all there is to Microsoft's supposed security initiative.

Bill Gates tells the world he is truly sorry for all the pain he has put Windows users and innocent bystanders through; he then issues an internal memo which just happens to get leaked; and finally word escapes Redmond that the legions of programmers there are undergoing an intensive re-training.

That's all we have. And yet the sycophants have readily gathered, eager to pay Microsoft lip service for its latest vapourware. Whilst the latest rumour says backward compatibility is going out the window.

Chris Darby, CEO of @Stake, a company known for its readiness to dance to the Redmond drum, stands behind Microsoft all the way. 'They are going to lead,' says Darby. In February Microsoft began sending its programmers on a 'back to school' one week course in programming. (Considering the sloppy way code is traditionally generated in Redmond, this came not a day too soon.) Three subsequent weeks were devoted to finding bugs in legacy code. (Given the extreme time limitation, this speaks volumes about Microsoft's perception of what is wrong under the Golden Arches.)

All the while Apache 2.0 is released. A three year project finally reaching its conclusion, Apache 2.0 ventures into Microsoft territory, emulating the functionality of Microsoft IIS with native Windows code, keeping stride with IIS all the way in terms of performance, integrating into existing Microsoft networks, and freeing said networks of all the bugs and holes which have made IIS the bane of network administrators everywhere and finally condemned by Gartner and the US government as 'hopeless'.

We have in Microsoft a company which has never once been outstanding in the areas of engineering excellence and innovation. From their MS-DOS which was a buy-out of Tim Paterson's operating system, through development tools such as the C compiler which were acquired and not developed internally, through applications such as Excel which have been derided by the likes of John Walker of AutoCAD fame, to Windows, nothing in Seattle or Redmond was ever outstanding, nothing was innovative, nothing was Microsoft's own. Windows itself, a hodge-podge of other technologies Microsoft has through the years attempted unsuccessfully to emulate and perhaps the only significant product the company has ever attempted to develop, is still today known not so much for its features as for its shoddy appearance and behaviour, while off-shoots such as Internet Explorer, Outlook and ActiveX technologies have become notorious for allowing the free flow of destructive malware world-wide. Clearly Microsoft not only has a long way to go to establish secure engineering, they have yet to take the first step.

And as for that first step, all they have so far are press statements, leaked memos and rumours.

Couple that with the increased uneasiness that Microsoft will, if and whenever they are able to offer the world a well written and secure product, cajole users into upgrading just for the sake of attaining the stability and security these users paid for the first place, and you have a very unique scenario, one that emanates a distinct sensation of deja vu.

For only Bill Gates would figure out how to turn bad software into a new profit.

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