Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates used the spotlight of the RSA Security conference to discuss Redmonds aggressive push deliver the first version of "the ultimate mail virus protection" by the end of this year.
He also announced that a consumer version of Microsofts anti-spyware software will be free for genuine Windows users.
"Weve looked hard at the nature of this problem, and made a decision that this anti-spyware capability will become something thats available at no additional charge for Windows users—both the blocking capability, and the scanning and removal capabilities. Those are features we think should be available to protect every system," Gates said.
Gytis Barzdukas, director of product management in Microsofts security business technology unit, said the free anti-spyware tools would only be available for a "personal edition" and made it clear that an enterprise version with management capabilities will carry a price tag.
"Were planning a refresh [of the anti-spyware beta] within the next few months. In the meantime, were talking to enterprise customers, asking them about the management capabilities they need. Once we figure all that out, we will release a managed version," Barzdukas said in an interview with eWEEK.com.
He declined to discuss marketing plans or address reports that anti-spyware/anti-virus/firewall products will be bundled into a security subscription service code-named "A1."
"We have trials for subscription type products all the time. A1 is just one of those things. These are usually small, limited trials," Barzdukas added.
During the keynote presentation, Gates said the anti-virus product will piggyback on enterprise-ready functionality in the recently acquired Sybari Antigen, which provides mail protection for networks that support applications such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes platforms.
"The e-mail vector continues to be the primary means of virus threat," Gates declared, nothing that 88 percent of virus incidents in corporations are coming through e-mail. "And its our belief that we need to beef up and really improve the scanning capabilities there," Gates said.
"Were looking at building sort of the ultimate mail virus protection. We looked at what were using internally at Microsoft, that was the Sybari product. We looked at what theyd done with the multiple engines, the different layers of scanning, and really specializing in infrastructure and drawing on others for the virus engines," he added.
Gates said Sybaris use of multiple virus scanning engines was a key feature that gives customers the best of all worlds. "You really want to take the best ideas of many people writing these scanning engines, and get those working on your behalf. You want to scan at the SMTP level as well as at the store level. Both of those are very important," he said.
Sybari has licensing deals to use virus engines offered by Norman ASA, Kaspersky Lab, Sophos Inc., Computer Associates International Inc., and VirusBusters Inc.
Barzdukas said Microsoft plans to retain those partnerships and add its own "GeCAD engine" to the mix, referring to technology the company acquired from GeCAD Software Srl., of Bucharest.