Microsoft Pulls Plug on Private Folder 1.0

In response to concerns from corporate users, Microsoft on Friday pulled the plug on software that allowed users sharing Windows PCs to shield information from other users in a private folder.

Private Folder 1.0 first appeared on Microsoft’s Web site last week as a Windows add-on. Corporate bloggers, however, published concerns that the software would cause major problems for network administrators.

“Private Folder 1.0 was designed as a benefit for customers running genuine Windows,” Microsoft said in a statement Friday. “However, we received feedback about concerns around manageability, data recovery and encryption, and based on that feedback we are removing the application today.”

Catering to Corporate Concerns

Microsoft’s product description of Private Folder 1.0 touted the software as a useful tool to protect private data when friends, colleagues, kids or other people share your PC or account. The tool offered one password-protected folder called “My Private Folder” to save the personal files.

At issue is the customer support, or lack thereof, for the software. Microsoft didn’t offer any support for Private Folder 1.0 users. There was no way to retrieve a forgotten password, making it likely that users would lose access to their protected files if they could not remember the code.

It was corporate concerns over employees using the software to hide files on their computers — and other potentially malicious activity — that caused Microsoft to pull the plug.

“This will be a real support problem,” a blogger who called himself “George” wrote on MSBlog, a Microsoft-related blog. “Imagine someone maliciously places important files in the folder and deletes the originals.”

Pondering Privacy Issues

JupiterResearch analyst Joe Wilcox is not too surprised that Microsoft is removing the software from public use. Like Google, Microsoft has a myriad of incubation projects underway. Features being tested for use with Office or Windows may never make it into the product for various reasons, he told TechNewsWorld.

Right now, concerns about Private Folder 1.0 are over forgotten passwords, employees hiding files and malicious activity, but later, the focus of concern could shift to privacy.

“Microsoft is very aware of some of the privacy and security concerns that were lobbed at Google with respect to some of its search products,” Wilcox noted. “The company is wise to exercise prudence. Just because it was pulled doesn’t mean it will go away.”

Revisiting Collaboration

Private Folder 1.0 falls loosely into the collaboration software market. Theoretically, users of the software could share their password with a colleague to give him or her access to files.

The growing demand within organizations for real-time and team-based collaboration technologies will drive the worldwide Web conferencing and team collaboration software market to US$1.1 billion by 2008, according to Gartner.

“Given Microsoft’s emphasis on the importance of collaboration and the increased need for these tools as the work force grows more mobile, I suspect we’ll see a revisitation of Private Folder 1.0 at some point,” Wilcox concluded. “Microsoft may rethink the technology or implement it in another way.”

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