Antivirus Market Shouldnt Fear Microsoft

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2003-06-16 Print this article Print

Why would people assume Microsoft can take market share from today's leaders? Doesn't look like it will happen any time soon.

Somethings not quite as it seems with Microsofts acquisition last week of the intellectual property of GeCAD Software, a Romanian antivirus supplier. In one sense, the reasons are obvious: As the press release announcing the purchase makes clear, Microsoft is on a mission, pursuant to the Trusted Computing initiative, to provide a more secure computing experience.

Of course, you may have already heard that third-party antivirus software is available—as of the 1980s I think. What can Microsoft really bring to the table? Short of hitting a grand slam in the early innings, I think its efforts wont amount to much for a while.

There have been reports that Microsoft would not bundle its antivirus product with Windows or any other product. I called Microsoft about it, and a company spokesperson told me Microsoft hasnt decided how it will distribute its products; to me, this means that maybe it will bundle it with Windows and other relevant products. But the real business of antivirus is not in charging for the utility but in charging for subscriptions to signature and program updates, and Microsoft says it will indeed charge for these.

Some have also noted that GeCAD offers products for operating systems other than Windows, including Linux and Netware. Reports are already out stating that Microsoft will kill the Linux version of GeCADs RAV Antivirus. Actually, the company tells me it plans to discontinue the entire RAV antivirus product line, take the basic antivirus guts and deliver its own products. The fact that these are unlikely to include support for Linux or Lotus Notes or Samba perhaps amounts to practically the same thing—but not exactly.

Imagine that Microsoft doesnt bundle the products with Windows or other Microsoft products. In that case, they will be standalone products on par with Symantecs or Network Associates or anyone elses antivirus protection. You have to wonder how successful they really can be under such conditions and how much the fact that Microsoft is offering antivirus protection adds to the Trustworthiness of Windows.

In short, I dont get this scenario. Mind you, Im not blind to the possibility that the company sees a profitable market and the potential to make some money, but I think its going to have a tough time making Microsoft-style profits with it. There are a lot of companies in this market with established reputations, and its not like users will exclaim, "Finally, a security product from a company I can trust!"

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Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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