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Backstage: Microsoft’s Longhorn and the iPod

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Sunday, September 12, 2004
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I’ve been busy with more important things this past week, but I couldn’t help but comment briefly on the latest oafish proclamation from Microsoft, the promise of a new feature in their Longhorn (Windows 2006) operating system that will - in their words - keep iPods from stealing data from PCs or unleashing virus attacks on business networks. (Edit: Alternate link for story. Search for “Microsoft claims”.)

“Wait a second,” you’re saying, “no one really uses iPods to steal data from PCs or unleash virus attacks. That’s just insane.” And of course, you’re correct. The average PC virus gets sent through e-mail, fits on a floppy disk (say nothing of a CD-R), and by no means needs an iPod for any stage of its transmission. Plus, everyone knows it would be a hell of a lot easier to attack or steal from the average PC with a non-iPod portable device (say, a USB key) that installs its own PC drivers. Each of these facts will be just as true in 2006, assuming nothing changes and we’re not all driving flying cars and eating Soylent Green by then. So why, then, would Microsoft say it’s securing its new operating system against Attack By iPod?

It’s obvious - to (a) smear the iPod’s good name while (b) providing a convenient excuse to make another Windows OS that rejects or screws with competitors’ products and (c) distracting people from discussing the huge virus problems that already plague Windows machines. Since Microsoft can’t stop people from infecting PCs with virus-laden e-mails (attacks that come 40 times a day) or stealing data through the Internet (which doesn’t even require that someone sneak up and attach an iPod to your computer), they’ll just invent a problem that they can solve. Attacking the iPod is surely a lot easier than actually coming up with a worthwhile iPod competitor, right? This, from the company that took 2 years to come up with a mouse with a built-in neon light. Ugh.

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Comments

1

Ummm… it was the journalist that mentioned the iPod in the article, not the microsoft guy. The microsoft guy only mentions storage devices. The ‘Oafish’ one is Australian IT.

Posted by Henry Maddocks on September 12, 2004 at 4:24 PM (PDT)

2

I’m agreeing with Henry, here.  As far as I can see, “Australian IT”, not Microsoft, mentioned the iPod by name.

And is this such a bad idea anyway?  We’re not talking about Longhorn blocking the iPod by default—it’s a security policy that organisations can /choose/ to implement if they wish.  Removable storage is a valid security concern and any IT security policy worth its salt should have statements about connecting personal devices to the company network already, whether they have software to automatically enforce the rules or not.

If someone has a genuine need to connect their iPod (or any other removable storage device) to their company PC, but their administrator has locked it out, then any reasonable admin would listen to the case and possibly make special arrangements.  Some admins might be ########, but the ones I’ve met really do want to help you get your work done, and won’t put meaningless blocks in your way.

Honestly, I don’t see a problem with this.  I’m not a Microsoft apologist, but this kind of security makes sense to me.

Posted by Jon Eccleston in UK on September 13, 2004 at 12:45 AM (PDT)

3

See the second article, which claims Microsoft raised the point.

And really, why would this sort of thing be a high priority given the fact that corporate networks are today under blistering daily attacks from thousands of malicious outsiders such as virus writers, hackers, and corporate spies? What genius would look at the problems people are having with PCs today and say, “time to block the iPod” because the people we’re hiring are stealing from us or infecting us?

This just seems like an intentional red herring on Microsoft’s part to distract attention from known Windows problems and take a cheap shot at the iPod in the meanwhile.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on September 13, 2004 at 9:57 AM (PDT)

4

You’re an idiot and you must not have a job. At my company, and I’m sure many others, employees will gladly steal company information with portable USB devices. Someone using an IPod for such a purpose isn’t a stretch. I’ve seen people in the Mac Store using IPods to steal software off the Macs in the store.

Posted by Mark Laird on September 13, 2004 at 10:19 AM (PDT)

5

Mark, you crack me up. Thanks for that great response.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on September 14, 2004 at 4:16 PM (PDT)

6

This sucks! MS is doing all to boot off competition!!

Posted by Jaeboy on October 31, 2004 at 1:50 AM (PDT)

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