Microsoft recently reported that the Defense Department repels 250,000 attacks on its networks – every hour. I suspect that Microsoft has more experience with hostilities in cyberspace than any other company. I do not know of a published list of the biggest targets for hackers, but the US Government has got to be close to the top of the list, financial institutions are probably next, big companies like GE and P&G and GM have got to be up there too. Literally every enterprise customer of Microsoft spends a great deal of time and money dealing with these attacks. I also do not know how much of their budget is actually paid to Microsoft, but with the cloud offerings MSFT is now selling to big enterprises – the number must be growing.
It does seem like Microsoft badly wants to be a consumer focused company. There is a security need at the consumer level too. Our citizens may not have the designs of weapons, or the controls to the predator drones behind their personal firewalls, but knowing that half of all credit cards have been compromised by cyber attacks is enough to make the point that consumers have things to protect too. Once again, Microsoft has more technical expertise and experience data on the consumer attacks than any other company.
But… Does anyone really want to talk about security? It does sound a lot like that annual call from the insurance agent who wants to talk about how to increase, well, his commission.
The changes that Google made last week to further personalize search could be the opening that Microsoft needs to get the conversation going. Google is increasingly showing you just you want to see – even if some of what you get in your search results comes from things you own – like pictures on Picasa web. Desktop search never worked for Google or for Microsoft, but as more content migrates to the cloud, we can expect to see our personal, not public, items mixed in with public search results. We cannot expect Google to be so foolish as to put Gmail into the personal search results, but Google+ posts are sometimes public and sometimes personal. If these latest changes are meant to push Facebook and Twitter to make their content available for searching, and Google is successful, the line will go too far towards the personal end and consumers will be more than a little upset when their private Facebook posts are next to Wikipedia entries in the search results.
Microsoft could be the safe place to get search of private emails, documents, and photos. I have Copernic Desktop Search installed on my Windows 7 machine and it is amazingly good. And I am quite sure that neither Google or Microsoft or anyone else is building an index of my stuff on their servers. I would trust Microsoft to do this work and the only reason I have a non-Microsoft product doing this is because even after hours of trying, I could never get the desktop search index to work on Windows 7.
My dream, and I suspect the dream of many other consumers, would be to have a company I trust, deploy a capable private search tool, and do it in a way that protects me from the outside (desktop search and security) and then take it to the next level – making all of my private stuff available across all of my devices, all while maintaining my security.