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The world according to Gates

Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and other Microsoft executives will pen a newsletter on the company's views about the role of technology and public policy.

E-mail has become a publishing medium for market researchers, spammers, exiled political dissidents and people selling ostrich jerky. Now it will be used by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.

Gates, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and other executives will periodically issue newsletters on the company's views about the role of technology and public policy, according to the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.

The first volume of the newsletter, about Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative, went out on Thursday and was penned by Gates. The four-page e-mail gives an overview of the initiative and provides tips on how companies can make their computing environments more secure.

"Trustworthy Computing really is a journey rather than a destination," he wrote, "For customers, the most important first step is understanding what it will take to make their computers and networks more reliable and safe."

Gates said the company's high-profile campaign to improve the security of its software cost at least $100 million this year, but said the expense was paying off in better products.

The first volume of the newsletter was sent to only a small fraction of subscribers to Microsoft's newsletters, a representative said. Overall, more than a million people subscribe to the dozen or so newsletters sent out by the company on a regular basis.

The public policy newsletter will not come out on a fixed schedule, but will emerge whenever Gates, Ballmer or another executive feels a burning issue is afoot.

Gates himself is no stranger to authorship. The executive has published several books on technology and business.

Security has become a top priority for the company. Six months ago, Gates declared security as Microsoft's highest priority. Different divisions in the company will be rated on how well they integrate security features into their products, several sources have said.

Earlier this year, Microsoft interrupted the development work of more than 8,500 engineers and sent many on special training to improve the security of its Windows operating system. That "stand-down" took nearly two months and cost at least $100 million, according to Gates.

"We estimated that the stand-down would take 30 days," he wrote. "It took nearly twice that long, and cost Microsoft more than $100 million."

In an effort to avoid spamming, the first version of the newsletter was sent to existing newsletter subscribers. To receive subsequent editions, readers will have to register.