Today at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft announced a contest to produce advanced security technology to protect Windows computers. The grand prize for the Microsoft Blue Hat Prize is $200,000. $50,000 will go to the runner-up and an MSDN Universal subscription (worth about $10,000) to the third place winner. Microsoft is taking a step above the "bug bounty" program offered by Google, Mozilla and Facebook and incentivizing developers to not just patch holes in Windows, but to put security technology ahead of the curve of the constant threat of attacks.

Microsoft will be accepting submissions until April 1, 2012 and the contest will be judged by Microsoft engineers. A winner will be announced at next year's Black Hat conference. The goal of the contest is to get developers to focus more on the big picture as opposed to individual bugs or issues. Is the lure $200,000 enough for developers throw themselves head first into Microsoft's challenge?

"As the risk of criminal attacks on private and government computer systems continues to increase, Microsoft recognizes the need to stimulate research in the area of defensive computer security technology," Matt Thomlinson, GM of Microsoft's Truthworthy Computing Group, told SC Magazine.

Microsoft has sold more than 400 million Windows 7 licenses to individuals, enterprises and government and many of those same institutions still use older versions of Windows such as XP or Vista. Windows is, by far, the most used operating system in the world and is still the primary target for malware and malicious attacks because of its ubiquity.

Microsoft has a market cap of $223.95 billion on the NASDAQ exchange , according to Google Finance. The company spends billions on research and development and security. Yet, the best Redmond can come up with as a bounty for the next advanced security technology is $200,000? Netflix offered $1 million for predictive technology in 2009 and had a very positive developer response.

We wrote in January 2010 about how prize contests can be a great boon for company's core technology. Microsoft is offering more ($250,000) for information that leads to the arrest of the operators of the Rustock botnet. With security threats making the news every day and the scale of intrusions increasing, Microsoft could do more to incentivize its developer community.