Microsoft’s security moves throw industry into confusion

‘Later, there will be lots and lots of court examinations, and Microsoft will lose – but too late, because more than half of users will already have the antivirus solution from Microsoft installed and they won’t change it. To prevent such situation, the main antivirus industry players should deliver the “preventive blow” and should not allow Microsoft to release its antivirus for free.’

The problem Microsoft faces in the consumer space is that it needs to combat the perception of its products as being insecure. One way is to offer additional security products. If it makes them free, it stands to face the wrath of the industry it seems set to dispossess. If it charges, its Windows customers will feel scammed being asked to pay for something that protects them from flaws in the operating system – which they have already paid for.

There’s no doubt that viruses don’t always attack flaws in Windows and can use other vectors, such as pure social engineering. But as the company everyone loves to hate, it’s unlikely that Microsoft will escape this perception.

At the enterprise level, Microsoft is also faced with challenges. Gates said that it will make its antivirus engine available through its Sybari product. Trend Micro doesn’t license its engine to Sybari, but Genes said that there are questions to be addressed for those that do.

‘There’s a big question over how will McAfee react. Will they continue to license their engine for the Sybari product? Microsoft will have access to the technology of McAfee, Symantec and the other engines it supports, such as the SDKs,’ he said.

Because when Microsoft is building its own antivirus engine, what competitive advantage might it gain from having that information. A recent MarketWatch article on the subject recounted an anecdote from an antivirus CEO who said he had stumbled into the wrong room at a Microsoft meeting and found himself in another on the subject of ‘Deriving Innovation from Vendors’.

Sophos does license to Sybari but Cluley had fewer concerns over any technology drain. ‘They don’t get to see any confidential information. We provide an API and SDKs, but they don’t see our source code, they don’t learn anything extra,’ he said.

Customers

There are also questions for customers. Genes said: ‘We’ve talked with a lot of customers. Enterprises say they will not rely on Microsoft for security. They have questions. Sybari customers are worried about Microsoft’s end of life support. Will they continue to support Exchange 5.5, Domino? This is an opportunity for us to talk to Sybari customers for business.’

Microsoft has already told us that it will discontinue support for Sybari on Linux. Cluley agreed that Microsoft will probably extend its Windows policies to Sybari. ‘My feeling is that they will want to push customers to the latest versions of its products,’ he said.

Yet Cluley did not see Redmond as presenting that much of a threat. ‘Most enterprise level customers we have talked to would rather go with a single-focussed company rather than a company that also makes Xboxes and Age of Empires. They want a better level of service and faster response times.’

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