Will Microsoft’s free antivirus software sink or swim?

June 11, 2009

Will Microsoft's free antivirus software sink or swim? Microsoft is set to release a beta version of its free antivirus software codenamed Morro. The company intends to patch its own gaping security flaws and wipe out a multi-billion-dollar antivirus software industry  in one fell swoop.

No one outside of the Microsoft employees testing the antivirus software has seen the free antivirus software yet. That hasn’t stopped executives at Symantec and McAfee from sweating bullets.

The two largest providers of antivirus software raked in over $3.14 billion combined last year selling paid antivirus and security software for PCs. Even if many enterprise customers decide to stick with these premier offerings, a free solution could drive margins down for both companies.

A McAfee spokesman says the company can compete with anyone, “on a level playing field,” that just isn’t the case. For Microsoft the antivirus solution is a loss leader to sell Windows computers and not it’s primary source of revenue.

The problem is that Microsoft doesn’t have the strongest track records in terms of security. Windows machines are infinitely more vulnerable to virus and malware attacks than their Mac and Linux cousins.

Now Microsoft is announcing a new security product the day after it released a record patch to Windows users. The patch fixed 31 vulnerabilities, 18 of which were deemed critical.

Also pertaining to the issue of credibility is whether Microsoft’s security team is truly independent. Often security researchers push Microsoft to resolve issues before they are exploited by viruses or other malware.

This is the biggest reason that McAfee and Symantec will be around for years to come. Businesses cannot take the risk of using software that hasn’t been independently audited for security or they risk falling behind the hackers trying to exploit their networks.

Many individuals are likely to try Microsoft’s new antivirus program just based on the fact that it’s free. However there are still other free products such as Avast to contend with that are free and independent.

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9 Responses to “Will Microsoft’s free antivirus software sink or swim?”

  1. Aquaadverse:

    Everyone who keeps hammering Microsoft for being insecure automatically loses if they also hammered them for anti-trust issues. They were blocked from providing their own antivirus software by a moronic mindset the EU seems to still embrace.

    It’s a bit disingenuous to bitch about Microsoft’s security track record when they are forced to publicize code and forbidden to include programs under threat of millions of dollars of fines.

    Perhaps they still would have sucked at security, perhaps not. No doubt the fanatical zealots with Microsoft Derangement Syndrome will dismiss the possibility.

  2. Dave Jeyes:

    What do public code or antitrust measure have to do with writing good code? Inquiring minds (and the entire Linux community) would like to know.

  3. Aquaadverse:

    Microsoft was fined millions and not allowed to bundle programs with Windows. You might be fine with the idea that Microsoft wouldn’t be better equipped to write an antivirus program, but I’m not.

    Microsoft had a large amount of legacy customers and code prior to the widespread availability of either PC networks or the Web.

    They made a decision to run default users as administrator as an ease of use measure. As bad of a choice it seems now when looking back, the success of that decision is pretty hard to ignore.

    Developers got lazy, a lot of hardware drivers and programs used those rights. Your 20-20 hindsight conveniently skips over the condition of multi-millions of users and trillions of dollars in service contracts and revenue that were impacted by even small changes. It’s not feasible to start over clean.

    You aren’t talking about taking a minuscule number of users ala’ OSX.

    I’m typing this on a Fedora 11 OS from a Firefox browser. I have zero problem with FOSS. I’ve been using Linux as a server product since 1999. I’ve used it as my personal OS since ’04.

    Explain to me why Linux still sucks at wireless. Why do I have to take 2870 firmware and recompile the kernel to get 802.11N to work?

    What exactly is the reason for Ndiswrapper and why did I have to use it to get 802.11B on the widely used Broadcom chipset?

    Can’t the Linux community write the good code? Or is it a bit harder to interact with proprietary code. How do you get 3D video acceleration on the two most popular lines of Video cards? What is this Linux program Envy used for?

    How about those inept COBOL code slingers that foolishly only allocated a two character year string. How dumbass to not realize that 4K of RAM wasn’t forever and foresee Y2K. I really miss all those ISAM recovery sessions.

    I have no great love for Microsoft. You can’t argue they didn’t use some pretty unethically tactics. Study up on the history of IBM, AT&T or any company that consolidated a fractured series of standards to be the 800 lb. gorilla of an industry and tell us which one used your Rainbows and Unicorn business models.

    Hope that helped your inquiring mind.

  4. Hugh:

    @Aquaadverse (is that your real name?)

    “I have no great love for Microsoft.”

    Looking on the bright side, it’s good to see that you at least got one thing right.

  5. Aquaadverse:

    It possible to actually look look at conditions and facts for analysis without drowning the conclusion in emotional tripe and bias.

    Microsoft is a business. Not an evil cackling entity filled with childish, inept people who delight in chaos.

    You nonstop pronouncements of a company with 90% marketshare in many lucrative segments of the industry being unimportant and doomed is idiotic. You offer no hard data, ever, to back up your “Microsoft is teh devil” yammering.

    How ’bout saving us all some irritation and hangout in an echo chamber of fellow he-man Microsoft haters like Mac Daily news or boycottnovell.com.

    At least wait until you have success equal to MS senior management before mocking them. It doesn’t really do much but make whatever actual germ of truth you have get discarded.

    It’s like the author of this article requesting info from me and then rudely blowing me off.

  6. Hugh:

    @Ken,

    I think you need to let go and admit that the way things are going, Microsoft really can’t last.

    If you want some insight into what’s going on in the belly of the beast, check out the posts by MS employees on the mini-msft blog – it will dispel your quixotic notion that MS senior management are “successful”.

  7. a non e mous:

    As I have asked once before, Hugh, can we be spared from your constant anti-Microsoft commentary?

    We all get it, OK? We know where you stand. But we don’t need to be reminded of it almost every post you make.

  8. Hugh:

    @a non e mous,

    Personally, if I see a comment that’s not worth reading, then I don’t read it. People are free to post comments, and they are free to read them (or not) as they see fit. It’s hardly rocket science, is it?

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