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64-Bit Vista Kernel Will Be a "Black Box"

Microsoft will operate 64-bit versions of Windows Vista as a tabernacle, with the kernel as the holy of holies, where only its own high priests of security may venture.

There's going to be a kybosh on naughty developers mucking about with the 64-bit kernel; patching will be banned. McAfee and others seem to have already learned of the new deal at Microsoft. Speaking at the RSA Europe conference in Nice, Microsoft security technology unit corporate VP Ben Fathi said the 64-bit kernel will be a "black box".

He compared developers insisting on the ability to patch the code to a Sony Walkman user invalidating their warranty by opening up the device. He said: "It's just not the way the box was designed...we're putting a stop to that."

Fathi conceeded for 32-bit systems the firm will never have the amount of control over security. He said: "That train has left the station."

For 32-bit versions of Vista, it'll be mostly as you were on security. Developers will be able to patch the kernel, only now they'll have to compete with Microsoft's own brand anti-spyware, encryption, and anti-spam offerings. Fathi lamented Microsoft had "missed a great opportunity" last time round.

Whether Microsoft top brass see that "great opportunity" as one to secure systems or to swallow the security market whole remains to be seen. The final version of the Windows Defender free anti-spyware program went live today. Fathi said Defender has already become the most popular download ever from Microsoft, though he was obviously choosing to omit patches from his reckoning.

Fathi trumpeted the firm's plan to make its database of malware more readily available to security developers. "We believe it is important for them [vendors] to have early access," he said, a statement that will doubtless have McAfee wondering why they're splurging so much on legal fees chasing access to Vista APIs. ®

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