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End of an Icon: Microsoft Axes Trustworthy Computing

As part of its ongoing company restructuring, Microsoft is shuttering its Trustworthy Computing group—12 years after then-CEO Bill Gates held its creation up as a model of responsible tech-hood.

In 2002, Gates kicked off security as a top priority for the company with a now-immortalized memo on trustworthy computing in the software era.

“In Bill’s original email, he identified three core attributes – security, privacy and reliability – that we had to develop in our software and services,” said Scott Charney, corporate vice-president, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, as we reported during the group’s 10-year anniversary in 2012. “Bill said that technology was going to be integrated in our lives in a far more rich way and would impact everything we do. That was one of the reasons it was so critical to get these three attributes right.”

Gates’ prediction was spot on. Few others realized then how integral computing would become to everything we do, personal and commercial. He had already admitted that he had missed the emerging importance of the Internet, but he wasn’t going to miss the relevance of security and privacy. Before this memo, security professionals had a low opinion of Microsoft’s attitude towards security. Since then, in a slow but continuous evolution, that attitude has changed.

Now, however, Microsoft is wrestling with a competitive landscape that is, famously, “post-PC” as Steve Jobs said in 2010, and changes have to be made to stay viable. Part of that is streamlining operating units to maintain flexibility and resource allocation for critical initiatives, like cloud computing.

So, while the stand-alone unit is going away, the software giant will be incorporating elements of its practice into Microsoft’s engineering teams, the company said. Part of the group will now exist as part of its Legal & Corporate Affairs group under Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith; and another part will be folded into the Cloud & Enterprise Division under Scott Guthrie, according to reports.

Not everyone will be transitioned: Microsoft said that an unspecified number of employees from the group will lose their jobs. Overall, Microsoft announced that it has cut 2,100 jobs as part of a wider plan to eliminate 18,000 jobs over the course of a year.

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