Security is becoming increasingly important in the enterprise. Companies are finding unique ways to ensure their networks aren't impacted by malware targeting Windows computers. And there's always that possibility -- assuming, of course, that Apple can play nicely with enterprise developers -- that the business world will finally have enough of Windows and its security problems and switch to another platform.
Enterprise users might start asking questions. Why does Microsoft need to release a separate security suite to help users stay safe using its operating system? Why isn't Windows secure enough that Microsoft wouldn't need to release that security software? Apple doesn't offer any security software separate from its operating system. Security issues are practically non-existent on Linux. What's the deal? Why is Microsoft so different?
By releasing Microsoft Security Essentials, the software giant puts itself in a tough position. On one hand, it can make the argument that it's protecting its users. But on the other hand, it's admitting that its operating system isn't as secure as it should be and additional software is needed to increase security to a viable level. Many consumers might not even notice this, so Microsoft won't need to worry much on that front. But what about the enterprise? How long will it be before the enterprise sees Microsoft Security Essentials for what it is -- a security update packaged as software -- and start considering options?
Obviously, there are more issues at play here than security. The enterprise needs to consider compatibility. It needs to worry about employee productivity. But we can't say that it's not possible. For years, the enterprise has followed Microsoft Windows updates. It became an expectation that no matter when Microsoft released a new version of Windows, the business world would update equipment. But then Vista hit. And that rule that kept Microsoft so profitable over the years was suddenly broken. The enterprise decided against switching to Vista and chose, instead, to stay with Windows XP. It was a major blow to Microsoft.
Can Microsoft Security Essentials be another Vista? Can it make the enterprise think twice about Windows? It's doubtful. OneCare has been available for quite some time and there hasn't been any real exodus of business users to other platforms. So, they either don't care or they don't really feel it's the embarrassment others might.
In either case, one thing is certain: Microsoft is opening itself up to criticism by releasing this software. At that same time, it might help improve the security of Windows. So, it's a risk. But it might be a risk worth taking.