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Thu 25 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Microsoft wages war on cyber-crime

The world's largest IT company tells Arabian Business how it is leading from the front on security software.

Microsoft last week became the latest company to fall victim to hackers, after thousands of users were left vulnerable by a flaw in the web browser Internet Explorer. The world's largest IT company tells Arabian Business how it is leading from the front on security software, and why, despite the credit crisis, business will remain strong in 2009.

What is Microsoft's outlook for next year?

The general theme is we expect our business to grow. In many places the growth rates are going to be slower than we have usually witnessed over the past few years.

This is a direct consequence of the current economic situation and people in general rightly reassessing their spend priorities. We will work with customers and partners first on maximising the benefits in terms of their current IT investments, and then work on new additions and modernisations.

In which areas do you expect Microsoft to experience growth in the Middle East?

It's pretty clear that some of the sectors may have a larger impact on the next year or two than others. Primarily, government, education and healthcare are the areas where we are expecting even higher focus and spending.

There is more work emerging every day in the public and government sectors, particularly around government modernisation and providing smart performance management and business intelligence systems.

Focusing on these areas enables top decision-makers to make informed decisions and provide fast and alternative channels to give better services to citizens, like e-government for example.

Another area is some of the projects that have a national or broad footprint like national ID systems, medical records and so on. These are emerging and we are involved in a number of those.

How will Microsoft and other technology companies cope with the economic downturn?

The first step is having relevant technologies that can help people in difficult as well as great times. Focusing on ourselves, I would say, do we have technologies that can help people reduce the cost of their IT infrastructure; save people time and money and help them become more productive?

Also, do we have technology that helps people reach out to their customers and partners? Yes. So I'm comfortable, but I know that on both sides - positioning of technology and putting it to work - we need to be faster and better than we ever were.

If we do that, then we're in good shape. Companies will have to be realistic and adaptive. At the same time, what they offer has to be relevant and meaningful.

What are the company's key initiatives in the Middle East?

In many cases we are trying to help people get the best out of the software they already own. In these tough times every single person counts in a big way, so you want to truly empower people.

Another area is using new trends to reduce the cost of travel, particularly usage of the IP network and integrating voice data and video together. Doing this enables people to connect effectively without leaving their office or having to incur additional telecommunication costs.

There are many initiatives for what I would call infrastructure optimisation. Some of these involve using our new technologies, like virtualisation, to reduce the number of servers that are managed in an organisation, therefore reducing the cost of hardware.

We're also looking at reducing the time and costs of software, updates and downloads, and providing fast ways to implement high security measures.

What security measures have you implemented following the recent Internet Explorer alert which left users open to cyber attacks?

We've gone very deep on the security elements to the extent that we have been criticised about how tight we made some of the things. This is, to some extent, a bit like the war on terror - you tighten things up. You can stop so many things before they happen, but from time to time something bad may occur.

Unfortunately, it's that never-ending battle against people who are continuing to try and look for ways to cause harm. You have to try your best, but at the same time be ready for anything like this and that was the idea of auto-updates. All internet browsers have been the new target for many of these kinds of attacks.

Microsoft has a much higher market share, so if you want to cause bigger damage you target Microsoft more, unfortunately. But the industry is united in how we are trying to combat this, and the work on security and more secure software is something we are leading as a company.

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