What's in a name? Not Palladium

Microsoft has dropped the code name of its controversial security technology, Palladium, in favor of "next-generation secure computing base."

Robert Lemos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Robert Lemos
covers viruses, worms and other security threats.
Robert Lemos
2 min read
Microsoft has dropped the code name of its controversial security technology, Palladium, in favor of this buzzword-bloated tongue twister: "next-generation secure computing base."

On Friday, the company said that the name Palladium had become tarnished by controversy surrounding some elements of Microsoft's security push. In additional, it faced a potential legal battle with a small firm over the Palladium name.

"The official story--and it's true--is that we intended to change the name for a long time," said Mario Juarez, product manager for Microsoft's Windows Trusted Platform Technologies Group. "The fact that it was something that got a lot of attention and gave rise to a lot of misunderstanding" was also a factor, he said.

Microsoft unveiled Palladium last summer with the goal of allowing companies to wall off data, secure communications, and to identify their systems and those of business partners.

Critics, however, argue that the technology can also be used to restrict access to data. For example, a text document could be restricted to being accessible by only the application that created it.

To address the criticism, the company has decided to release the source code of the core part of the software, known as the nub or nexus, so that others can verify it is secure and is doing only what the company has claimed.

Microsoft's Juarez dismissed any suggestions that the name change implied that the company was trying to dodge criticism.

"That's not the reason that we are doing it," he said. "This is really reflective of the fact that Microsoft is embracing this technology in terms of folding it into Windows for the next decade."

In addition, a potential lawsuit by a small firm that he wasn't allowed to name was also a major factor, Juarez said.

"Another company has laid a claim to the trademark of Palladium," he said.

The name change comes a day after Chairman Bill Gates sent a memo to Microsoft's customers outlining the company's progress towards securing its Windows products. The memo foreshadowed the name change by referring to Palladium as the initial name for the technology.

"Looking ahead, we are working on a new hardware/software architecture for the Windows PC platform (initially code-named 'Palladium'), which will significantly enhance the integrity, privacy and data security of computer systems by eliminating many 'weak links,'" Gates wrote in the memo.

Despite the controversy surrounding the technology, few technical details of the technology have been released.