Microsoft Gets Into the Anti-Virus Business

Yesterday, Mike Nash of Microsoft’s security business unit told reporters that Microsoft is developing anti-virus software to protect Windows machines. The core technology comes from a Romanian company that was recently acquired by the Redmond giant.

No release date was indicated, but Nash did say that the anti-virus software would not be bundled with Windows. Let me repeat that – Nash did say that the anti-virus software would not be bundled with Windows. It is going to be separate product.

This is pretty interesting.

Microsoft has been getting hammered for bundling things into Windows that put pressure on their competitors. Now they declining to bundle a product that probably deserves to be bundled more than Internet Explorer or Windows media Player do. Interesting, especially when you consider that Central Point AntiVirus used to be bundled with DOS.

For my money, I’d love to see Windows Server 200x or Longhorn ship with anti-virus software built in (as long as you could turn it off if desired). I’ve never been a big fan of the argument that bundling is anti-competitive; if a bundled product is weaker than a competing, non-bundled product, the consumer will use the competing product every time. It would be no different here.

I won’t turn this into a rant, as the point is moot – this anti-virus product will not be bundled, and that’s alright. It is nice to see MS throwing some of its considerable heft behind increasing the security of the computing experience.

Do you suppose MacAfee or Symantec or Trend Micro are nervous? Do you suppose they have reason to be? I do. Despite the invectives frequently hurled at Microsoft as to the quality or stability of their products, the fact of the matter is that MS is where it is because it created more value for more customers than any of its competitors did in the operating system and desktop application marketspaces. Period. End of story. If their anti-virus offering turns out to be another Excel, the established players in the anti-virus space are going to be in for a bare-knuckle brawl just to hang on to their respective bits of market share. Of course, if Microsoft’s anti-virus offering is a dud then…nobody cares. The product will fade away, and the established players will all enjoy a big sigh of relief.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this situation. 😉