Byline: Steven Levy
In ancient Troy stood the Palladium, a statue of the goddess Athena. Legend has it that the safety of the city depended on that icon's preservation. Later the term came to mean a more generic safeguard.
Here's something that cries for a safeguard: the world of computer bits. An endless roster of security holes allows cyber-thieves to fill up their buffers with credit-card numbers and corporate secrets. It's easier to vandalize a Web site than to program a remote control. Entertainment moguls boil in their hot tubs as movies and music are swapped, gratis, on the Internet. Consumers fret about the loss of privacy. And computer viruses proliferate and mutate faster than they can be named.
Computer security is enough of a worry that the software colossus Microsoft views it as a threat to its continued success: thus the apocalyptic Bill Gates memo in January calling for a "Trustworthy Computing" jihad. What Gates did not specifically mention was Microsoft's hyperambitious long-range plan to literally change the architecture of PCs in order to address the concerns of security, privacy and intellectual property. The plan, revealed for the first time to NEWSWEEK, is... Palladium, and it's one of the riskiest ventures the company has ever attempted. Though Microsoft does not claim a panacea, the system is designed to dramatically improve our ability to control and protect personal and corporate information. Even more important, Palladium is intended to become a new platform for a host of yet-unimagined services to enable …