Microsoft releases Windows Vista to consumers

Microsoft released long-anticipated consumer versions of the Windows Vista operating system (OS) today, promoting security as one of the major benefits of the new platform.

As a part of the launch, Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect, addressed a live audience in New York in a speech that was broadcast live over the web. He emphasized the strides in security with Vista, noting new Internet Explorer capabilities, anti-phishing features, anti-spyware and parental controls as just a few features to improve user safety.

“As the internet has become mainstream, the issue of making sure your information is protected - that you don’t lose it and that you understand your privacy - that’s become very important,” Gates said.

Over the past weeks, Microsoft executives have been touting Vista is the most secure OS the company has produced to date.

“A more secure computing experience, including protection from online threats, viruses and hackers, is more important than ever before, for businesses and consumers alike,” said Ben Fathi, corporate vice president of the Security Technology Unit at Microsoft. “Windows Vista is the most secure operating system we’ve ever built, and our security partners continue to play a vital role in adding layers of protection onto the Microsoft Windows platform.”

But Microsoft is already under fire with vendors that have poked holes in the new OS and its security features. Webroot Software just released a report that picked apart weaknesses in Vista’s anti-malware components. A number of vendors have timed product updates to coincide with the consumer Vista release.

And some companies such as Symantec believe that the public relations blitz Microsoft is conducting could be harmful to consumers, who may misperceive Vista as impenetrable and fail to protect themselves.

“Over the last months, we’ve been concerned with the message that we’ve seen getting out to consumers from Microsoft,” said Rowan Trollope, vice president of engineering at Symantec. “Their message is that Vista is the most secure Windows platform ever. They said that about Windows XP as well. It kind of reminds me of the Titanic being the ‘unsinkable ship.’”

Trollope said that ultimately, though Vista is more secure, it is not impervious.

“It is more secure in the way an operating system should be. They’ve improved the authentication and access mechanisms, they’ve improved the APIs and the security infrastructure to allow application vendors to write more secure applications,” he said. “But the net of it is you still need security and you still need a security product that runs on top of Vista that is going to protect you against today’s threats.”

Click here to email West Coast Bureau Chief Ericka Chickowski.

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