Could Microsoft kill the antivirus industry?

Not surprisingly, this argument doesn’t play well with rivals. “It greatly benefits consumers when Microsoft improves the security of its core operating system, but bundling free antivirus software is a different thing,” argued Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure.

Could Microsoft kill the antivirus industry?

“I don’t think Microsoft would bundle antivirus software with the Windows operating system. It would definitely have an adverse effect on innovation and development in the field of IT security, and in the security industry innovation and research is critical to stay ahead of the game. Bundling would not be good for consumers.”

Microsoft played coy when we asked whether it would consider bundling Security Essentials with Windows, but it did open up another interesting possibility, with the company admitting it may consider offering the antivirus package through Windows Update should it see enough demand. So, where would the EC stand on this?

“If Microsoft isn’t offering antivirus with the Windows package there’s probably less concern, because customers have the freedom to go and buy another antivirus package from the shelves,” said Davis. “However, if it’s known to the consumer that they can go and obtain this for free through Windows Update, they might not think about buying it elsewhere. The Commission may not look too favourably on this.”
Microsoft can build a very secure product of very high quality, but people will not believe in the brand Neither would Microsoft’s rivals, presumably. However, Eugene Kaspersky, founder of Kaspersky Lab, believes that even when offering a free package, Microsoft will have a hard time convincing customers to trust it. “Security is not part of Microsoft’s identity,” Kaspersky said in a recent interview with ZDNet Asia.

“Microsoft can build a very secure product of very high quality, but people will not believe in the brand. OneCare was good enough. They got very good engineers, a very strong lab – all the resources were in place. From the beginning, the product was good enough but it didn’t take market share at all.”

Which brings us back to those 1.5 million downloads. If Microsoft was looking for an indication of demand, this certainly fits the bill, and it seems likely Security Essentials will be arriving on Windows Update sooner rather than later. Only then will we find out whether the EU will act, and whether Microsoft has more than caustic comments from its rivals to worry about.

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