Microsoft's Ballmer: 'Bad guys are still out there'

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 infrastructures.

'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, 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 clients.

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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