Microsoft Stays Friendly

By Matt Hines  |  Posted 2007-01-12 Print this article Print

Symantecs approach to the alleged Vista shortcoming may signal how the company will market its future products abilities to augment Microsofts platforms now that the OS giant has built its own security tools and is moving aggressively into Symantecs home turf.

And rather than Microsoft taking a combative tone with Symantec, as it did in the early days of the kernel patch protection debate of 2006, the software giants response to the UAC criticism appears to defer arguments over the limitations of the feature to avoid further in-fighting.

"We believe UAC is a good solution to help limit the impact of malware attacks, installation of unauthorized software, and unapproved system changes by making it easier to use Windows without administrator privileges," said Stephen Toulouse, senior product manager with Microsofts Security Technology Unit.
"If the user decides they do not want to run UAC and they would rather run a third party solution that provides similar functionality, they do have the choice to disable it."

One of the first people to highlight potential issues with UAC was Andrew Jaquith, analyst with Boston-based Yankee Group. In May 2006, Jaquith published a research report that suggested some enterprises might delay adoption of Vista until Microsoft had improved the feature.

VeriSign offers hackers bounty on Vista, IE 7 flaws. Click here to read more. After the report was widely publicized, Microsoft officials pledged to tone down the frequency and complexity of the user prompts generated by UAC, but the analyst said that despite making improvements to the feature, it will be hard for some people to get used to the tool.

"Microsoft has taken a lot of the early feedback to heart and made some very good improvements, but, any interruption to user experience, no matter how infrequent, is still something different than what most users are comfortable with," Jaquith said. "How much chatter is too much or too little wont be figured out for a while, UAC clearly needed to be improved, and Microsoft did that, but they will probably need to do more."

Others industry watchers agreed that some users are complaining that Vista UAC remains too noisy, and observed that such issues will provide opportunities for companies like Symantec to market security applications that build on Vista features.

And while Microsoft and Symantec will likely become even more heated rivals in the security space as they mature their respective products, it is important for users installing Vista to have the companies remain on good terms, said Natalie Lambert, analyst with Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass.

"Microsoft is going to push further into the security arena just as Symantec is going to push further into the desktop management space, but they need each other, at least for today," Lambert said. "Today Microsofts security products are at a severe functional disadvantage, but Symantecs applications will always run on Microsofts software; at the end of the day they will increasingly compete for the same dollars, but for now everyone has to play nicely."

Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Ryan Naraines eWEEK Security Watch blog.


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