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Palladium on Display at WinHEC

NEW ORLEANS -- The Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB), better known by the code-name Palladium, will be a major feature of the next client version of Windows and is getting the spotlight here at Microsoft's conference for hardware partners.

NGSCB will combine work within Windows to hardware engineering changes by Microsoft partners to give users additional security and privacy protection. Current plans call for NGSCB to be integrated into the Windows "Longhorn" client operating system as a subset of Windows functionality.

While the idea that Palladium will be part of Longhorn has been the stuff of rumor, speculation and off-the-record interviews, the announcement Tuesday by Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference gives the idea some real substance.

Microsoft's major architectural changes often get jettisoned as the deadline for putting out an operating system that addresses customers' day-to-day requirements gets closer. But because attendees at the WinHEC forum generally must go out and begin designing hardware based on Microsoft's roadmaps, announcements here tend to be a fairly reliable barometer of what the software giant actually expects it can accomplish.

"We're talking about the details of this here at WinHEC for the first time," Gates said of Palladium, which was introduced about a year ago in exclusive Microsoft interviews with Newsweek magazine.

Microsoft has scheduled 16 hours of breakout sessions at this week's WinHEC conference to explain the initiative to partners, who will have a major role in implementing it -- and whose level of participation will determine NGSCB's success or failure. "There are many pieces that have to come together here," Gates acknowledged. "We do think that over time this will be a feature of all PCs."

Gates called the initiative a "breakthrough" that will allow for privacy guarantees and document distribution controls and said the technology could allow PCs to be used for security-intensive tasks that they aren't currently secure enough for.

NGSCB is the next major step in Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative. NGSCB is designed to protect users' critical data against viruses, Trojan horses and spyware, while balancing the need to preserve the openness that makes networked computers valuable.

Check back later this week for more detailed information on NGSCB coming out of the technical sessions at WinHEC.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.