Microsoft to Give Away AV Software

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”.

Randy Abrams
Director of Technical Education

Author ESET Research, ESET

  • Meezer

    We’ve been using NOD32 on a lot of computers for a long, long time. The few times we’ve had a question or issue, getting immediate & perfect response from eSet was flawlessly easy. That alone is worth paying for and we will continue to subscribe to a provider that really services a product that works! They combine that magic combination of dollars & sense plus sleeping at night.
    Anyone who has tried to get help from M$ knows they cannot compete in that arena.

  • http://www.smallblue-greenworld.co.uk David Harley

    No-one will ever believe we didn’t write Meezer’s comment ourselves. ;-) I’m not sure I agree, though. Admittedly, I do remember conversations with MS tech support where I posed a pretty tough technical problem which they addressed by reading through a prepared script, then, when I explained why that solution wasn’t an option, read through it again, only louder… Nonetheless, I think MS support (and not just for their customers) has become very different to the days when they tried to pretend that WM/Concept wasn’t a virus.

  • http://msmvps.com/blogs/siljaline/default.aspx Randy K

    NOD32 Business works well for me, Randy.
    I’ve never run anything developed by MS for Malware, thanks but no thanks :(

  • http://www.smallblue-greenworld.co.uk David Harley

    Well, we certainly wouldn’t want you to switch to Microsoft! I think the message from the comments here is that support -is- important. Free software (whether it’s a lite version, open source, or whatever) is great if it gives end-users more protection than they’d be prepared to pay for. However, companies can’t afford more than limited support for a product from which they don’t get revenue. That’s the trade-off. In general, if you upgrade to a commercial version, you expect to get a support package and enhanced functionality. A lot of the time, a home user doesn’t take that into consideration until trouble actually strikes. A well-maintained free product can reduce but not eliminate risk.

  • Johnson

    It seems that MS very likes to write engine to detect malwares.

  • NoeSetUser

    (Landed here from VB100.) Thing is, MS’s antivirus could become something like IE – pre-installed on every Windows machine, and riddled with bugs and security flaws. Only, security flaws in a typical desktop application, like IE, are one thing, while security flaws in an antivirus are quite a different one. I’d never go for a MS product when security is an issue – MS gave me good reason for that. (Like, for instance, building the only platform which actually needs an antivirus – Windows needing antivirus SW is a consequence of bad, security-disregarding OS design decisions, not of the fact that there are so many Windows boxes out there. If MS was to fix its OS, all antivirus providers would go out of business.)

    Besides, there are many other free, very good antivirus products out there, in order not to care for a new kid on the block. Any product in its infancy is at least full of flaws, if not outright bad, so I’d be very circumspect before trying something that is v1.0 in the security area.

  • http://www.syzygysystems.co.uk Richard Saunders

    I understand M$’s reasoning for developing an AV solution, the only problem is knowing M$, it wil “integrate fully” into the OS and it will REFUSE to leave once there, how many times I have been called to remove OneCare, M$ Antispyware etc is unbelievable.
    If it works as it should then I don’t see there being a problem, as stated above, another “free” option for the average Jo, but to be honest, being in the industry for 10+ years you get to know the products that work, and Nod32 is THE best !

  • http://www.smallblue-greenworld.co.uk David Harley

    I wouldn’t have thought that Microsoft would rush into another anti-trust tussle by integrating their AV into the operating environment. Besides which, given that anti-malware is the Cinderella of security software, I doubt that MS would rush to claim sole responsibility for the protection of every Windows PC in the world.

    I can’t agree that Windows is the only platform that needs anti-virus, though much of the need for anti-malware defense on other platforms would dissipate if there was no Windows malware problem. (Interoperability, malware transmission across platforms, and so on.) However, most types of malware threat could be implemented quite effectively on other platforms. The #1 0-day threat is social engineering.

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