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3/31/2006
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Vista May Pose Danger To Security Product Vendors

Could it be that Microsoft's vision for security in Vista will aggravate security product vendors? One longtime Windows watcher thinks Microsoft, hoping to fly under the antitrust radar, will sprinkle security throughout the operating system.

Microsoft can pull the consumer security software rug out from under its long-time partners and likely avoid antitrust charges by sprinkling security throughout Vista in bits and pieces, an analyst said this week.

Microsoft's move earlier this year to debut Windows Live OneCare at $50 is a shot across the bow, JupiterResearch analyst Joe Wilcox said in an interview Thursday.

"It's clearly chosen to compete with partners," said Wilcox. "If you want one sign that Microsoft is aggressively competing with partners [in the consumer security market], look at the pricing of OneCare.

"Until April 30, anyone using OneCare can have it for $19.95 a year." Even after that, the price of $49.95 for three machines, said Wilcox, is a warning to companies like Symantec, Trend Micro, McAfee and others that Microsoft is serious about taking share.

So serious, in fact, that Wilcox expects some substantial fall-out. "Microsoft's entrance into the security product market will drive out many of the smaller vendors within 24 months," he predicted.

"The damage [to partners] will be where the competition is stiffest: firewall, anti-virus, and particularly, anti-spyware."

Microsoft's Windows Vista is already under antitrust suspicion for its plans to bundle Windows Defender, the Redmond, Wash. company's anti-spyware software. Earlier this week, the European Union sent a letter to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer outlining several issues of concern.

However, Wilcox thinks that Microsoft will try to sidestep antitrust allegations by adding security scanning at several key junctures, not by bundling full-blown security packages with Vista.

"My expectation is that Microsoft will provide "discrete" scanning that doesn't protect the system as a whole, but is called on in specific circumstances.

"Microsoft insists it won't 'bundle' anti-virus with Vista," said Wilcox. "But look at Windows Live Messenger. That's a foreshadowing of things to come. When people share files [with Messenger], a scanner fires up and checks them for viruses.

"[Anti-virus] may not be pervasive, but if you sprinkle it in enough places [within Vista] there comes a point where it achieves the same function."

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