Back in 2001, Pescatore recalled the McAfee.com "software-as-a-service" strategy that offered subscription-based online security, privacy and PC management services. The McAfee.com service, which cost between $49.95 and $69.95 per desktop per year, was a failure because businesses see no value in having an external entity manage security on the desktop.He said he believes there may be a market for OneCare in businesses with remote employees who rarely connect to the network but, even there, "its really a very small niche market." Gartners guidance to its clients is to wait until the product matures before considering its merits. "This is a consumer grade offering. By year-end, we believe Microsoft will add some management features for mid-sized businesses. This is not something a large enterprise would even consider until the end of 2007. Even then, we havent seen any value there for large enterprise to outsource desktop security," Pescatore added. "Enterprise customers everywhere know that you have to wait until version 3 or version 3.5 of a Microsoft product before putting buying plans in place." Ted Anglace, senior security analyst at Sophos Inc., said Microsoft must be careful about putting out a desktop security product that could potentially break mission-critical business applications. "Enterprise IT managers are always very careful about allowing external changes at the desktop level. Automatic changes that arent tested properly could a nightmare," Anglace added. He said an enterprise-grade version of Windows OneCare would have to include change process capabilities to allow a business to roll back updates in emergencies. "If an insurance company with thousands of customer service reps goes down because changes to the desktop are propagated without proper testing, that wont work." "If they could incorporate a way to have enterprises handle change control, that might work. Right now, most customers have a very tight change control process." Anglace said Sophos, which markets anti-virus and firewall solutions for businesses, is capable of competing with Microsoft. "The market is going to decide. Microsoft has come out with some interesting developments over past year and a half, but in the end, the enterprise market will decide whether or not they will use their offerings." Gartners Pescatore said he believes Microsofts entry into the desktop security business will trigger major price cuts among anti-virus vendors. Soon-to-be rivals McAfee Inc., Symantec Corp. and Trend Micro Inc. currently sell comparable packages in the range of $50, but Pescatore said he believes Microsoft will introduce tiered pricing that will appeal to households with multiple computers. He expects Microsoft to find immediate success in the consumer market where, surprisingly, the company has a "very good track record around trust." Editors Note: This story has been updated to include comments from a Microsoft spokesperson about the companys enterprise anti-virus and anti-spyware plans. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
"The outsourced desktop security market, even with trusted security names, havent taken off. With the enterprise perception of Microsoft security today, I cant see how a business would trust Microsoft," Pescatore added.