Microsoft announced that they will be dropping OneCare and providing a free consumer anti-virus product. Much like when Microsoft announced they would enter the anti-virus market, this has caused quite a bit of media buzz. Much like when Microsoft announced they would enter the anti-virus market, this is not a big deal.
To start with, OneCare has been almost free from the beginning. Although retail price is $49 for 3 PCs for a year, online prices have been much lower. The Microsoft product will offer another choice to consumers who choose free antivirus software. For companies such as ESET, competing against free products has been part of the business for many years. This really isn’t a big deal.
According to Microsoft, the reason for the change is to try to get more consumers who currently do not use anti-virus to start using anti-virus software. This is definitely in keeping with the reasoning behind Microsoft’s decision to enter the space when they did. I wrote about that in my Virus Bulletin presentation in 2006. Microsoft is interested in protecting the Windows brand, and that, rather than revenue from anti-virus software has been the primary motivation for making a Microsoft AV solution available.
I would guess that the decision to go with the free product also is a cost saving measure for Microsoft. The pricing for OneCare is such that a single support call can eliminate any profits from the purchase of the product. OneCare includes non-security related features that require support as well. By eliminating these features support is limited to the security product itself, and Microsoft already provides free anti-virus assistance to all Windows consumers, regardless of whose product they use.
I find it quite funny that some competitors are saying that Microsoft has conceded defeat. This is really a silly thing to say. Microsoft is changing its strategy to attempt to increase the number of computers that use antivirus software. That isn’t what I would call “conceding defeat”.
Companies such as ESET will continue to offer products that are priced fairly and sold for their performance and value. The strategy has worked well for ESET for many years and another free offering is not likely to make any real difference.
So, I’ll go back to reading the news reports and laughing at the 2008 version of “Much Ado About Nothing”.
Director of Technical Education
Author ESET Research, We Live Security