Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced plans to buy a little-known Romanian companys antivirus software technology for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition signals Microsofts desire to move deeper into the security market and may mean trouble for the handful of big players in the AV arena.
The main product of GeCAD Software Srl., based in Bucharest, is RAV AntiVirus, which Microsoft plans to use in several different ways. The most interesting possibility is that Microsoft may integrate AV protection directly into Windows, obviating the need for third-party software.
However, the Redmond, Wash., company recently began a partnership with several AV vendors, known as the Virus Information Alliance, under which the companies work to educate users about viruses and other kinds of security threats. Microsoft has also worked to simplify the development process for AV makers through a new architecture in Windows.
"Customers told us they needed a safer, more trustworthy computing experience to help combat the threats posed by those who write viruses and malicious code," Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the Security Business Unit at Microsoft, said in a statement. "This acquisition will help us and our partner antivirus providers further mitigate risks from these threats."
"The Microsoft acquisition appears as simply the next evolutionary stage for antivirus. Just in the same way computer users do not install separate software to run their mouse, antivirus has the potential to become a fundamental piece of the operating system," said Ian Hameroff, security strategist at Computer Associates International Inc., in Islandia, N.Y. "On the other hand, if I was NAI or Symantec, I would be concerned about the move because it validates the fact that antivirus alone is simply not enough and that you need to build more on top of it."
Analysts agreed, saying that the acquisition gives Microsoft a built-in security presence on users desktops. "From Microsofts perspective, they get a direct pipeline to the desktop and a chance to maybe integrate it with Passport to make sure you are who you say you are," said Pete Lindstrom, research director at Spire Security LLC in Malvern, Pa. "In a lot of ways, AV has become commoditized. Its not so much dead as it gets re-thought."