If Microsoft Sells Antivirus Software, Who Will Buy? - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

If Microsoft Sells Antivirus Software, Who Will Buy?

In the baseball-fantasy-flick Field Of Dreams, protagonist Ray Kinsella--played by Kevin Costner--hears a godly but whispery voice resonate: "If you build it, he will come." A similar question can be posed about Microsoft and the antivirus software it's in the midst of creating.

And the answer is a resounding yes, according to a survey of 100 CIOs' software-buying plans that Forrester Research conducted for the investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston LLC. Seven in 10 CIOs surveyed say they'd consider licensing a Microsoft antivirus product.

CIOs also expect to spend more on software than previously anticipated, weighted toward the last half of the year, Credit Suisse First Boston says in its analysis. Thirty-seven percent expect their 2005 IT budgets to be flat to up 5% compared with last year's, and more than a quarter expect their budgets to be up 5% or more. Enterprise resource planning, security, and business intelligence are the year's top spending priorities.

Reasons To SwitchThe strong interest in Microsoft antivirus software astounds Jim Slaby, a senior analyst at IT advisory firm the Yankee Group, given the troubles Microsoft has had securing Internet Explorer and Windows. "Buying security software from Microsoft is like buying medication from a doctor who has been successfully sued for malpractice," Slaby says. "In spite of all the security dysfunction around Microsoft, the [IT] ecosystem will be willing to try anything it offers."

Jim Andreoni, CIO and VP of IT at Goodwill Industries of Southeast Wisconsin, which also serves Goodwill's Chicago operations, isn't surprised. "We don't think of the brand name when choosing a product; we'll consider any product that works," he says.

Among respondents who'd consider a Microsoft antivirus product, nearly a quarter cite aggressive pricing as a reason they'd switch. Price is important, Andreoni says, especially for a not-for-profit like Goodwill, but it should be considered only after the product is tested and benchmarked. "It has to work first, then we can talk price," he says. "You don't want a good price and a mediocre product."

It's too early to determine Microsoft's fate in the enterprise antivirus market, Credit Suisse First Boston says. It could gain a foothold in the market through aggressive pricing. The key will be how it optimizes the link between its security systems and the Windows platform. Still, any impact on other security software vendors will be minimal over the next 12 to 18 months, the report says.

Earlier this month, Microsoft revealed sketchy plans to provide antivirus and other security protection under a program it calls Windows One Care, a subscription service aimed at consumers and small businesses. The offering would put Microsoft in competition with Computer Associates, McAfee, and Symantec.

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