Will Zombie PCs Keep Microsoft Profitable?

Two interesting stories about Microsoft hit the news today, and one wonders if they are related.

First, Microsoft has sued 13 spamming operations that use zombie PCs to send out millions of spam. According to CNET News.com, Microsoft takes on spam zombies by Joris Evers, Microsoft believes more than half of all spam is sent by zombies.

A zombie is a PC typically connected to the Internet via a broadband connection that has been infected with a Trojan horse that enables spammers to use the PC remotely to send spam or commit online crimes. PCs running Windows are the primary if not the only targets for zombification, largely because they can’t be kept secure without more help from Microsoft (such as security patches and updates).

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched “Operation Spam Zombie” and asked Internet service providers to quarantine zombies and help users clean the PCs. Tim Cranton, director of Internet Safety Enforcement Programs at Microsoft, said in the report, “We believe there are tens of millions of zombie computers out there.”

Second, Microsoft is gearing up for a major product blitz, a “big bang” that some say may be the company’s last. According to CNET News.com, Microsoft’s ‘big bang’ could be its last by Ina Fried, a flurry of new products will ship in the coming months, some more than five years in the making.

However, the coming splash of new products could be the last such “big bang” for Microsoft. Many expect the company to offer more measured, but more frequent releases in the coming years… One way that Microsoft is trying to regain its nimbleness is by offering more services that connect to its server and desktop software. Then the company could sell and distribute incremental updates to Windows and Office much more quickly, either as a one-time sale or on a subscription basis.

OK, so there are tens of millions of zombie PCs out there, and Microsoft is working with the FTC and Internet service providers to identify them and “help users clean” their PCs. Why do I feel there is a connection? Because Microsoft is gearing up to offer security services and incremental updates, and the fees for these services and updates — which every zombie PC will require — could keep the company profitable for years to come. Those that believe Microsoft’s hype about security and the upcoming Vista system will wait for, and then pay for, Vista. For Microsoft, zombie PCs are a win-win situation.

So perhaps if you have a zombie PC, consider switching to a system other than Windows. Otherwise, expect to pay more for security from Microsoft. That’s what I think will happen in 2006.

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