I really didn't think that Microsoft's beta AV product would necessitate three blogs: it is, after all, just a beta release. However, I was surprised just now to read an article by Mark Mayne of SC Magazine that claims the product is "going head-to-head with a range of AV vendors, from Symantec and McAfee through to AVG and Eset [sic]", and suggesting that "the market incumbents will be watching this beta with interest, if not concern."

I'm not surprised at the content of the suggestion: after all, I just touched on it in my previous blog. I'm a little more surprised that it was aired by SC, which actually has roots in the antivirus industry (though you wouldn't think so to read it now) and usually has a more balanced view of what we now prefer to call the anti-malware industry. So let me tell you (again) why I think those statements are misleading.

Microsoft is already going head-to-head against the rest of the industry in the enterprise market, with a product range that includes anti-malware and much else, but is very definitely not free.

What we're expecting to see today is a beta test version of a limited product that will eventually be a production version of a free but limited product. That's not a market that most of us are in. AVG (among others) do have a free (but limited) product: we don't, though we do have a free online scanner here, as do other vendors. Why do vendors do this? Well, hopefully, some users of free products and services will find that they actually need a full commercial solution and think about upgrading. But it's also a practical and (at least in part) altruistic issue: it's better to give something free to people who wouldn't use a commercial product and reduce their exposure (and everyone else's) to malware.

However, it seems bizarre to me to suggest a head-to-head between competing free products. Where we're really in competition is in the product ranges that actually keep us in business, and that's a much more diverse and complex market sector than Mark is implying.

David Harley
Director of Malware Intelligence