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coup of an exclusive, simultaneous interview with the two most influential Steves in the operating system industry, Ballmer of Microsoft and Jobs of Apple, and sounded them out on forthcoming changes in OS strategy and design.
What's the latest in Windows XP?
Ballmer: We're very excited about our spanking new security architecture. As you may know, company Chairman Bill Gates wrote a memo to every Microsoft employee earlier this spring about the need to make sure our security strategy is nailed down.
Ballmer: For years the press has been on our backs about security being an afterthought. No more! At Microsoft, security isn't just an afterthought any more. It's an API.
Ballmer: You have no idea. We call it the Hack Manager. In the past, Windows was constantly being hacked as a result of unexpected side effects of OS features such as Universal Plug and Play in XP.
Ballmer: Not any more, baby. There is now a formal library of operating system calls specifically designed to make it easier than ever for programmers to hack Windows.
Ballmer: Take credit card theft, for instance. In the past, if a hacker wanted some remote user's credit card numbers, it meant hours of painstaking work accessing the volume through technological holes, or via human engineering, and then a long search through files with likely names. Now this same task is accomplished by way of the new StealEveryCreditCard routine. In the latest internal build of XP, a hacker can instantly grab every credit card number on a target box's associated volumes, both local and networked... with a single request!
How'd you pull off a stunt like that?
Ballmer: Good question. The new software sits in the background, constantly polling keyboard input looking for sixteen consecutive digits starting with 4, typed in four groups of four digits. We've discovered in user studies that these are virtually always Visa numbers. When Windows finds these, it copies them into an internal database. Then it waits for a hacker request. And when it finds one, it passes the request to the database, the contents of which are then broadcast in the file format of the hacker's choice.
Incredible. Gates must be very proud.
Ballmer: Absolutely. This project has been years in the making and uses unbelievably sophisticated technology. We've taken what used to be a complex, tiresome manual process and made it amazingly automated, efficient and robust.
|Ballmer: For years the press has been on our backs about security being an afterthought. No more! At Microsoft, security isn't just an afterthought any more. It's an API.|
Well, Mr. Jobs, have you got anything that can top that?
Jobs: You bet I do. Apple has long been heralded as the leader in sophisticated human interface design, and we're not resting on our laurels. We're moving into areas nobody else has thought about at all.
Jobs: Something we've recently discovered at Apple is that the user turns out not to like unpredictable crashing. We understand, and we sympathize. And we've responded by completely solving the problem.
Jobs: We have a Crash control panel. The user can now select a crashing schedule of his or her own devising. You want to crash at 11:55 AM every Monday? Done. Grab the hands on the on-screen clock, move them into position, click the glowing Crash Now! button, and you're through. It's just that simple. And let me tell you, the competition doesn't let you do that. We do. Another breakthrough for Apple.
Something tells me the story doesn't end there.
Jobs: In Cupertino, we're all about creative aesthetic refinement. As you know, the competition's crashes often come with the infamous associated Blue Screen of Death. At Apple, we think that's lame, and we've reworked that sorry situation considerably. And so, as a result of a round-the-clock marathon by our crack engineering team, we will soon be able to offer screens of death in any of five, fruity, user-determinable colors.
Jobs: It really is. I really think it's the best thing we've ever done.
What other insanely great features are on the drawing board?
Jobs: Well... I'm not supposed to talk about this... but... we're going to do something really off the wall. Are you ready for this?
Jobs: Software-based deceleration!
|Jobs: As a result of a round-the-clock marathon by our crack engineering team, we will soon be able to offer screens of death in any of five, fruity, user-determinable colors.|
Jobs: In the past, if you wanted to slow your computer to a crawl, you had to go out and buy an expensive decelerator card. And after that you faced installation and compatibility hassles. But we've found that our next-generation operating system, Mac OS X, is so efficient that we can emulate a decelerator card in software. Can you believe that? Deceleration in software! Let me just say, that's not something you'll hear from Microsoft any time soon. The cost to you? Nothing. We're giving it away to Mac users... another free, industry-leading solution you get when you use the world's most modern operating system.
Jobs: And... Marketing's going to kill me for mentioning it, but get this. Our next major OS release, Mac OS XXX, will come with... pre-installed porn! Nobody's ever done that before. Eat your heart out, Ballmer.
Now that really is innovative.
Ballmer (scribbling into his notebook furiously): Uh... excuse me.
Ballmer: I forgot to mention our forthcoming product. Uh... Windows XXXP.
Ballmer: It's been years in the making!