The first drop of Microsoft Corp.s "A1" security sauce has been spilled internally and its all systems go for a full-scale beta launch of an anti-spyware application within the next month.
A spokesperson for the software giant confirmed that a repackaged—and rebranded—version of the Giant AntiSpyware tool was released to employees for testing ahead of a public beta later this month.
"As part of its testing process, it is customary for Microsoft to first release the beta version of its product internally in order to gather further feedback before releasing publicly," the spokesperson told eWEEK.com.
"As we stated when we acquired Giant Company Software on December 16, we planned to issue a public beta of an anti-spyware solution within the month. Were still on target to reach that timeframe, but beyond that, we arent commenting on an exact release date or functionality at this point," the spokesperson added.
According to the Neowin screenshots, Microsoft has retained such Giant AntiSpyware features as RealTime Detection, AutoUpdater, Spyware Scan and the widely hailed SpyNet Community network.
SpyNet is styled as a network of computer users who agree to forward information about spyware to help create and update spyware detection signatures. When the softwares Security Agents are breached by unknown programs, the SpyNet servers are immediately updated to report the activity and check whether it is part of a spyware outbreak.
The program also includes a System Inoculation Wizard that suggests and enforces security levels, and a Tracks Eraser privacy tool, which deletes Internet history logs and 50 different activity trails from a users Web-browsing history or Windows temporary folders.
As Microsofts bundled anti-spyware/anti-virus plans begin to take shape, experts warn that a dependence on a single company for bundled services could lull PC users into a false sense of security.
"Its an interesting approach to integrate the two into a single offering. Whenever the Big Buy puts its muscle behind something, it will obviously have an impact on the market," said Rick Fleming, chief technical officer of San Antonio, Texas-based Digital Defense Inc.
"The challenge with anti-virus and anti-spyware products is that theyre only going to detect what [they know] about. When Microsoft puts out a product promising security, it inevitably leads to complacency from the user base because they expect it to detect everything," Fleming said.
Microsofts "A1" is expected to field its anti-spyware/anti-virus bundle in the form of a renewable subscription service, but Fleming said it is very likely the two services will be kept separate even if the marketing message speaks to a single offering.
"While I might pay for a single license, I could be getting 17 different programs running on a machine. One subscription doesnt necessarily mean one program," he said.
Analysts expect Microsoft to compete aggressively on pricing to put the squeeze on entrenched players such as Computer Associates International Inc., McAfee Inc., Symantec Corp. and Webroot Software Inc.
In the past, Microsoft has directed Windows users to free spyware removal such as Lavasoft Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy (S&D), but once the software giants own service hits the market, its likely those referrals will disappear.
Microsofts public beta is expected to be free for Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 users.