Bring On the Security Price Wars

Updated: Opinion: The cost of security has marched steadily uphill for years. We should celebrate Microsoft for pricing its products aggressively, not try to protect the established market leaders.

The move to "security as a service" may be largely a conspiracy to increase prices, but maybe it doesnt have to end up that way.

Up top here I should concede that I made a careless error in a recent column by forgetting the fact that Microsofts OneCare includes a license to protect up to three computers, whereas the companys competitors typically make you get licenses for one at a time.

I actually had heard this and readers were quick to point it out in the talkbacks to the column (thanks).

Is this a good thing? Alex Eckelberry of Sunbelt Software doesnt think so, and from his perspective—as a provider of security software—having Microsoft come in and start a price war is a bad thing. You, the reader, have a different perspective.

I remember Comdex in (I believe) 1991, when Microsoft announced the release of Access for $99, a fraction of the $495 that Borland and others were charging for their products. At a party at that show I overheard Philippe Kahn of Borland telling a reporter, "I dont know who benefits from a price war in software."

This from the man who made his fame on a $49 compiler, competing against (if I remember correctly from 1984) programs that cost in the $500 to $1500 range.

It was a good thing for customers that Microsoft set prices in a downward direction for business productivity software, and it can be a good thing for them if pricing pressures make security software more affordable. This is Microsofts real goal.

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For months Microsoft has been spreading the message that its research shows—and it seems intuitively true to me—that a huge percentage of users have no anti-malware protection at all, or have an old program with an expired license.

I would never accuse Microsoft of being unconcerned with making money, but I think its real goal with OneCare is to increase the percentage of users who have basic, effective anti-malware protection. As long as the company doesnt lose money doing that itll be happy, because itll make Windows more appealing by making it safer to use.

/zimages/3/28571.gifIs Microsoft still a pariah in the security business, or a trendsetter? Click here to read more.

Philippe Kahns Turbo Pascal may have been pathetically weak in many technical areas. It only made .COM files (that has nothing to do with Internet domains, you kids who dont know what a .COM file is) and initially couldnt even do overlays. But it was, I believe, the first integrated development environment, and a darn clever one. I made a good living for several years writing software using Turbo Pascal, even though that initial version was useless for my employer at the time.

Similarly, even if OneCare is weak in some areas of coverage, I can see it being a good solution for lots of people who feel abused by the big anti-virus companies making them pay $40 per year per computer.

Next Page: The no-frills future of security.