In a way that memo served a function similar to the US Constitution: it enshrined high, aspirational ideals at the center of things. Just like with the Constitution, the reality may fall short of the ideals, but because of how central they are for the organization, it's easier to fight for those ideals than it would be otherwise.
Relative to others in the industry, I think Microsoft comes as close to that ideal Gates outlined around privacy as anyone does. No, they're not fully there yet, but they have been one of the progressive and innovative companies around privacy.
I can say from my time there that, as someone focused on doing the right thing for customers around security and privacy, it was much easier to succeed at that after the memo than it was before.
Are computers more trustworthy than they were back when Gates wrote his memo? Without a doubt. Whether they are trustworthy enough is another question. Because even if computers are 10 times more secure than they were back then, the threats are now 100 times worse.
So I'm tossing this one back to the residents of Cringeville. What do you think? Are computers trustworthy enough, 10 years later? If not, do you think they ever will be?
Post your thoughts on Trustworthy Computing below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll collect the best responses and publish them in a future post.
This article, "PC security: We've come a long way, baby," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.