I've dealt with Microsoft marketing since the early 1990s. At first, I was flattered to be noticed by the most important software company in the world. But then things began to puzzle me. An editor for a Canadian computer newspaper, for example, would asked hard questions, and Microsoft marketing wouldn't particularly answer them. That was the first thing to catch my attention.
Then strange things happened to me, and by the mid-1990s, I began to read the experiences of other editors as they finally became brave enough to expose rot behind the aura of hubris Microsoft marketing cast about the company.
These "Microsoft Chronicles" are the stories of my experiences with Microsoft marketing.
Windows NT was perhaps the biggest event for Microsoft, the operating system to lift them out of the home and small-office markets (DOS and Windows v3.x) and into the profitable world of big enterprise. We tend to forget just how crucial NT was. Today, it forms the underpinnings of Windows 2000, XP, and Vista. NT was the first operating sytem they wrote themselves. (DOS was purchased from Seattle Computer Products; Windows technology was was based on the Macintosh; and OS/2 was from IBM.) NT wasn't entirely original, of course, because Microsoft had hired David Cutler from DEC to write the NT operating system, and he used concepts from DEC's VMS operating system. (NT was short for "new technology.")
In the early 1990s, Microsoft marketing was getting us computer journalists excited about the promise of NT, and they kept emphasizing its security. Heck, they even gave us copies of their "Inside Windows NT" book Microsoft had self-published (complete with "NT Promo NonUSA" sticker). Over and over again we were told, NT was a C2-level secure system certified by the USA's National Security Agency, no less. That puzzled me, however, because security was not an issue in the early 1990s. Few comptuters were networked, and almost none connected to the outside world. In those days, the primary danger came from sharing floppy discs infected with virii.
Why did Microsoft marketing place such emphasis on C2, other than that the abbreviation rolls nicely off the tongue -- "see two." (You can read the original Microsoft spin here.) Spin is used to cover up a shortcoming. Some possible shortcomings could include:
- NT was not secure in other areas, so let's emphasize C2.
- Microsoft is insecure in its ability to sell NT to large corporations, so let's emphasize C2, which they might like.
- NT was overly secure, so let's make the problem a feature.
The last reason was the correct one. The early releases was so secure that device drivers had problems working NT. Device driver problems = perhipheral problems.
I recall the constant C2 drumbeat washing over me. The American security designation was meaningless to us Canadian journalists. And besides, this was pre-Internet, so we couldn't research what C2 actually meant.
That changed when InfoWorld's Nicholas Petreley exposed the C2 scam in 1998. (You can read his expose here.) Basically, the C2 designation was valid only if the computer has no contact with the outside world via a network -- making it useless. You won't read that in Microsoft's loftily-written "Windows NT: C2 Security Overview," and the " "Inside Windows NT" book also leaves out that detail.
The entire C2 incident reminds me of the Proctor&Gambles of the world buying endoresement seals for their toothpastes.