Palladium concerns Microsoft's competitors, not lawyers

By Sam Costello, IDG News Service |  Security

Microsoft Corp.'s Palladium security system has sparked concern among some of the company's competitors in the operating system market, as well as with consumer and digital-rights advocates, but lawyers and security companies are less troubled.

Palladium is the code-name for Microsoft's new security initiative, announced Monday, which is designed to create a "trusted space" within a PC for certain programs and other sensitive operations to run in. The system will require security hardware, in the form of a chip, as well as software, the company said Monday. The combination of hardware and software security could let users create documents and e-mail messages that expire after a certain amount of time, Microsoft said. It could also let music and movie companies take advantage of native support for digital rights management software that could let them limit how their content is copied or shared, and could stop users from running code that isn't digitally signed, Microsoft said.

Windows users will get the majority of Palladium's benefits, at first, though Microsoft said that it plans to make the system interoperable with other platforms. Microsoft may publish the source code to Palladium to allow third parties, including competitors, to create systems that interoperate with Palladium, the company said.

Some Microsoft competitors were, unsurprisingly, less-than-excited about the announcement of Palladium.

"Microsoft is enamored with the closed world they've built with the Xbox where they control what software can run. They believe they can use that strategy to restrict competition and increase their control in the PC arena," said Michael Robertson, chief executive officer of Linux desktop operating system startup Lindows.com Inc., in a statement. The Xbox includes a security system that restricts what kind of code the console will run.

Lindows, based in San Diego, and Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, are currently engaged in a lawsuit in which Microsoft is asking a court to bar Lindows from using that name for its Linux-based operating system, saying that it infringes on Microsoft's Windows trademark.

"Open systems beat closed systems -- it's what has made the PC and Internet so successful," he said.

"Microsoft is proposing reduced consumer freedom over their computer and their media while cleverly disguising it as improved privacy. I don't care what big companies they have extorted to endorse this strategy, consumers will see through it and reject it," he said.

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