Microsoft tech spiel whets CIO appetites

Microsoft senior executive Craig Mundie made a flying visit to New Zealand at the start of the month, which included a quick audience with the prime minister, two presentations to customers and a press conference.

Microsoft senior executive Craig Mundie made a flying visit to New Zealand at the start of the month, which included a quick audience with the prime minister, two presentations to customers and a press conference.

Mundie had been at the World Congress on IT in Adelaide and dropped into Wellington and Auckland to repeat his spiel about Microsoft’s trustworthy computing initiative. He set the scene by describing what he calls computing’s fourth wave, which encompasses web services and “powerful embedded computing”.

People’s willingness to adopt such technologies hinges on the trust they have in them, says Mundie, the company’s technology chief.

“If we don’t take steps together that improve trust, people will say don’t talk to me about this technology.”

Microsoft’s initiative is designed to lift its own security performance, but to also provide the industry with a “taxonomy” of trustworthiness.

IT bosses in the two cities were impressed by the technology Mundie put on show — including a “convertible” notebook that turns into a tablet PC, a handheld with built-in phone, a video-conferencing system with multiple cameras and the Xbox game console — but some felt he was light on security.

“The outline of trustworthy computing could have had a bit more substance,” says a member of his Wellington audience who didn’t want to be named.

New Zealand Post information chief Nigel Prince says, like other suppliers, Microsoft has security issues it needs to address.

“Security is top of mind for IT,” Prince says. But he gained a “greater appreciation of where Microsoft is heading” in terms of convergence of applications, services and hardware from hearing Mundie. “People are looking at how to apply that to business.”

Auckland University of Technology CIO Wendy Bussen says she loved the devices Mundie demonstrated. “I’m a convenience freak and I could really see the rationale of these new technologies.”

Bussen thinks Microsoft’s seizure of the trustworthy computing high ground could be a risky strategy. But she also believes it has to offer reassurance on security. “If it wants to move up to the enterprise level it needs to do that.”

The technology research manager at Auckland-based clothing retailer Pumpkin Patch, Chris Edmunds, applauds the trustworthy computing effort.

“It’s a good direction for Microsoft to be going in,” says Edmunds. “Drawing a parallel between the telephone system and IT infrastructure is good; it’s where we’d like our computer systems to go.”

Pumpkin Patch, which has about 500 computer users spread over 65 stores and its south Auckland head office, is largely a Microsoft shop. Edmunds, whose past roles have been in IT management, has no misgivings about Microsoft’s security reputation.

“Microsoft’s number one deficiency is that it’s a tall poppy and everyone is going to have a go at it. But we don’t think that’s reason enough as a company to shy away from its products,” Edmunds says.

Mundie says he was impressed during his meeting with prime minister Helen Clark at her appreciation of the significance of IT as an industry and as critical infrastructure.

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