Antivirus Market Shouldnt Fear Microsoft

Why would people assume Microsoft can take market share from today's leaders? Doesn't look like it will happen any time soon.

Somethings not quite as it seems with Microsofts acquisition last week of the intellectual property of GeCAD Software, a Romanian antivirus supplier. In one sense, the reasons are obvious: As the press release announcing the purchase makes clear, Microsoft is on a mission, pursuant to the Trusted Computing initiative, to provide a more secure computing experience.

Of course, you may have already heard that third-party antivirus software is available—as of the 1980s I think. What can Microsoft really bring to the table? Short of hitting a grand slam in the early innings, I think its efforts wont amount to much for a while.

There have been reports that Microsoft would not bundle its antivirus product with Windows or any other product. I called Microsoft about it, and a company spokesperson told me Microsoft hasnt decided how it will distribute its products; to me, this means that maybe it will bundle it with Windows and other relevant products. But the real business of antivirus is not in charging for the utility but in charging for subscriptions to signature and program updates, and Microsoft says it will indeed charge for these.

Some have also noted that GeCAD offers products for operating systems other than Windows, including Linux and Netware. Reports are already out stating that Microsoft will kill the Linux version of GeCADs RAV Antivirus. Actually, the company tells me it plans to discontinue the entire RAV antivirus product line, take the basic antivirus guts and deliver its own products. The fact that these are unlikely to include support for Linux or Lotus Notes or Samba perhaps amounts to practically the same thing—but not exactly.

Imagine that Microsoft doesnt bundle the products with Windows or other Microsoft products. In that case, they will be standalone products on par with Symantecs or Network Associates or anyone elses antivirus protection. You have to wonder how successful they really can be under such conditions and how much the fact that Microsoft is offering antivirus protection adds to the Trustworthiness of Windows.

In short, I dont get this scenario. Mind you, Im not blind to the possibility that the company sees a profitable market and the potential to make some money, but I think its going to have a tough time making Microsoft-style profits with it. There are a lot of companies in this market with established reputations, and its not like users will exclaim, "Finally, a security product from a company I can trust!"

Continued on Next Page