By Brad Grimes
The question came from Eugene Huang, Virginia's secretary of
technology. Huang wanted to know how Microsoft Corp. had gone from
being a laughingstock on IT security matters to a company increasingly
respected for its efforts to develop secure software.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledged the company had made
significant strides in the four years since chief software architect
Bill Gates issued a memo making security a top priority. But Ballmer
was quick to point out that Microsoft, its customers and other
technology companies still had a way to go in securing IT
"We all get lulled to sleep when there's a big gap" between software
attacks, Ballmer said. "We need to stay diligent."
Ballmer today addressed a gathering of government contractors and
other industry representatives in Washington at an event presented by
the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Tech Council of
Maryland, the Washington D.C. Technology Council and TechNet, a
Silicon Valley-based industry association focused on policy issues.
Earlier in his remarks, Ballmer said Microsoft's record on security
issues was "not perfect, but we've made great progress. ...Virus
outbreaks are fewer and less damaging." Still, he cautioned, "bad guys
are still out there."
Ballmer also talked about Microsoft's Windows Live and Office Live
initiatives, which the company announced last month. Live represents
Microsoft's move toward offering software as a service, the way
Salesforce.com, for example, offers customer relationship management
software online. Ballmer called it "the most important trend in the
software business," but insisted Internet-based software would not
replace traditional client-server programs.
The "basic nature of software will change" Ballmer said, but not all
software will run on the Net. "People still want intelligence in
clients and servers."
According to Ballmer, Microsoft's move toward software as a service
coincides with requests the company has been getting from Defense
Department customers who want help in deploying portals and other
centrally managed applications across the entire military.
In addition, Ballmer emphasized Microsoft's efforts to better
integrate its various software platforms. He called Microsoft Office
"the definitive front end to all data people want to use."
As an example, Ballmer pointed to the new Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0,
which the company introduced this week. The latest version of the CRM
package integrates directly with Microsoft Outlook to provide a
familiar look and feel for agencies that need to manage people and
information, such as the growing number of state and local 311
information centers set up to handle nonemergency citizen calls.
Referring to CRM as "a tool of oppression," Ballmer asserted that most
people don't like CRM programs but feel comfortable in their e-mail
Microsoft is in joint development with SAP on a project called
Mendocino, which will make Office a front end for certain functions in
SAP's enterprise resource planning line of products.
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