"We've learned of lots of frustration you have with our technology," Rick Devenuti, corporate vice president, Microsoft services and IT, told the hundreds of attendees in a keynote.
In response, the company is streamlining its update process to make patching easier, is working to develop more reliable software and aims to reduce the impact of malware by focusing on system isolation and resiliency, he said.
Devenuti outlined the security improvements offered in the upcoming Windows XP Service Pack 2, which he called "the most secure operating system from Microsoft for the desktop." Microsoft also is working on "dynamic system protection," which will allow administrators to protect a system before a patch is released, behavior blocking, and is working with partners on firewalls that are more application aware.
Microsoft also plans to provide a way to check a system's antivirus and patch level before the machine is allowed onto the network. This capability is provided via Windows Server 2003 tools, but will be more readily available in the upcoming ISA Server 2004, according to Devenuti.
To streamline patch management, Microsoft is working to improve the quality of its software updates, reduce their size, and provide better rollback, he said.
A Microsoft spokeswoman said 2,600 people registered for the Tuesday event, and about 1,300 were expected to attend.
Attendees had mixed reactions about Microsoft's security efforts.
"They're probably doing the best they can," said Rich Harbaugh, senior operations engineer at Omnicell, a medical supplies company based in Mountain View, Calif. "They started with a base of insecure code and they're working hard to secure it."
But an IT consultant who declined to give his name said Microsoft should be further ahead when it comes to security. Instead, "they're catching up," and relying on customers to find faults with their products, he said.