by May 6, 2001 0 comments



‘Involuntary attrition’ or normal lay-offs?: A long time ago, when business turned sour, employees were ‘fired’ to cut operating expenses. Then came along the less demeaning term ‘laid off,’ which was softened further in the 1980s and 1990s with ‘workforce reductions’ and ‘redundant workers.’ Now Cisco has refined the art of softening the blow of employment termination by saying that the 8,000 or so people who will no longer be Cisco Systems employees, were merely victims of ‘Normal Involuntary Attrition.’ 

“Cisco Systems expects a 5 percent turnover of its workforce through normal involuntary attrition,’’ said Cisco spokesman Tom Galvin. The American Heritage Dictionary illustrates the extent to which Cisco has gone to put a PR spin on a dreadful action. ‘Normal’ is defined as “conforming to a norm or standard.’’ ‘Involuntary’ is defined as “performed against one’s will.” And ‘Attrition’ means “a gradual, natural reduction in membership or personnel, as through resignation or death.’’ 

I’m sure the 8,000 Cisco workers will feel a lot better now.

Trust us, says Microsoft. Do you trust Microsoft enough to put vital personal information, including financial records, medical records, tax files and personal and business correspondence on online servers hosted by Microsoft? 

That is essentially what Microsoft is asking customers interested in buying into its new .NET products to do. Microsoft announced the first set of products and services recently. Customers who trust Microsoft will be able to enjoy access to their files from just about any devices that can connect to the Internet. It is a service Microsoft believes is the next big market opportunity in next-generation Internet usage. 

The problem is not the software and hardware that is needed to get the .NET architecture in place, and operating. The problem clearly is that Microsoft is Microsoft, and the company has simply not earned the necessary trust for consumers and businesses to en masse put most vital and private information on Microsoft-controlled computers.

Oh sure, Microsoft is saying all the right things, such as putting encryption and all sorts of access security procedures into place to protect the data from overly eager Microsoft marketers. The company promises to never share any of the information stored on the servers with any other company. 

But that is clearly not enough. It takes only a simple court order for the FBI and other authorities to open up any specific customer’s files. Are you comfortable with that? I didn’t think so. 

And Microsoft has shown time and again that it is good at promising, and not delivering. It also excels in producing buggy software and including major security holes in its server software. And its own online websites have been subject to many successful attacks, including being shut down. 

It all adds up to a clear and simple conclusion. However good an idea .Net may be, Microsoft is at least five years away from achieving a level of trust in both its integrity as a partner and the integrity of its products to withstand the undoubted onslaught of hackers trying to break in and dealing the .Net business a black eye.

Paul Swart runs the Silicon Valley News Service (SVNS)

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