Security Market Segment LS
Wednesday, 31 May 2006 11:27

Microsoft brings on Armageddon for security vendors

The day of reckoning has arrived for Symantec, McAfee, Kapersky and the myriad of other would-be anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall and assorted anti-malware peddlers. Their one-time benefactor Microsoft, the company that enabled them to build thriving businesses by selling products to protect its less than perfect operating system Windows, has pulled the plug by releasing its own security package.

With the release of Windows Live Onecare this month, Microsoft has now become the security companies' biggest nightmare and implacable foe. Not only does the new competitively priced Microsoft package compete head-to-head with the established security vendors, providing virtually identical functionality on the anti-malware and firewall fronts, it integrates automated PC tuneups, backups and provides free phone and online customer support.

To be clear on this, when you own an operating system for which you send regular critical security updates and patches to the desktop, it's not a difficult thing to do to convince users that their best option is to use your security product. Whether it's true or not is beside the point. Microsoft owns the operating system and the desktop. How difficult could it be to convince PC vendors to accept a Windows with Windows Live OneCare package deal?

As far as most users are concerned, they don't want to worry about which security product to use. Nowadays, when they buy a PC, all they want is for the mandatory security software to be installed and up and running. If they can buy their Windows PCs with their systems already secured by a Windows branded product then why would they go elsewhere?

Symantec can argue until it's blue in the face that it's the security expert and knows more about protecting PCs than Microsoft. However, Microsoft has a direct line to every single online Windows PC user on the planet that gets its security updates. It has a captive audience of the entire market to which it can freely market its security products. It can argue successfully that no-one knows more about its operating system or is in a better position to protect it than anyone else - even if it isn't true.

The security vendors of course have known this day was coming for some time and have been diversifying their product ranges in response. Symantec is the largest anti-virus vendor and, thus, has the most to lose. Not coincidentally, relations between Microsoft and Symantec have grown somewhat frosty in recent times. Symantec currently has a lawsuit against Microsoft trying to prevent it from bringing its new operating system Windows Vista to market, alleging that Microsoft misappropriated some Symantec-owned intellectual property. McAfee has been busily trying to foster a market in the Macintosh space. Whatever strategy they employ, however, the effects of Microsoft's arival on the security scene is bad news for PC security vendors.

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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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