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June 29, 2009

Microsoft starts limited beta of free antivirus product, Microsoft Security Essentials

Posted by David Hunter at 12:20 PM ET.

Last week (as had been rumored earlier in the month) Microsoft started a limited beta of its upcoming free antivirus product which had been codenamed Morro, but was formally christened as Microsoft Security Essentials. The beta was limited to 75,000 downloaders and has currently reached the limit so would-be tire kickers will have to wait for general availability which is expected later in the year.

Frankly, it takes a brave person (or one with a dedicated test machine) to test something as vital and potentially intrusive as PC antivirus software, but so far there have been no complaints that I have seen and in fact, preliminary results from testing company AV-Test GmbH indicate that Microsoft Security Essentials is looking very good:

AV-Test GmbH tested Microsoft Security Essentials, the free software Microsoft launched yesterday in beta, on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, putting it up against nearly 3,200 common viruses, bot Trojans and worms, said Andreas Marx, one of the firm’s two managers. The malware was culled from the most recent WildList, a list of threats actually actively attacking computers.

"All files were properly detected and treated by the product," said Marx in an e-mail. "That’s good, as several other [antivirus] scanners are still not able to detect and kill all of these critters yet."

AV-Test also examined the program’s anti-rootkit skills and its ability to scrub a system of malware it finds with a limited number of samples and "found no reasons to complain," Marx said. "[Security Essentials] is able to remove found malware very well, but further tests against larger sets of samples are required before we can come to a final conclusion."

Microsoft Security Essentials also had no false positives in the preliminary testing.

In case you were wondering, the testing also confirmed that Microsoft Security Essentials is not a "cloud" virus scanner as had been suggested in some early speculations – it is a conventional scanner working off databases downloaded to each PC. Without any concrete evidence, my assumption is that Microsoft Security Essentials is just a spiffed up version of the antivirus portion of Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft’s failed commercial security package which will no longer be sold after June 30.

Filed under Beta and CTP, Microsoft, Microsoft Security Essentials, Morro, Windows Live

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Microsoft ready to sell Razorfish?

Posted by David Hunter at 11:33 AM ET.

The Financial Times is reporting that Microsoft has retained Morgan Stanley to find a buyer for Razorfish, the online ad agency it picked up when it acquired aQuantive a bit more than 2 years ago. Microsoft is not commenting on the story, but it would make sense since an ad agency is not a great fit for Microsoft’s main Web advertising business which is in the uncomfortable position of courting rival ad agencies. A possible buyer is the French marketing company Publicis Groupe which just last Thursday announced a "broad strategic agreement" with Microsoft.

There had been rumors of an asset swap for Razorfish with ad giant WPP Group in August 2008, but that never panned out and now that two years have passed since the aQuantive acquisition, favorable tax treatment would make an outright sale more likely. It also does not hurt that Microsoft might get $600-$700 million back on the hefty US$6 billion they overpaid for aQuantive.

Filed under Acquisitions, Advertising, Alliances, Coopetition, Financial, General Business, Microsoft, Publicis Groupe, aQuantive

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June 25, 2009

Why aren’t Windows 7 upgrades free to Vista users?

Posted by David Hunter at 2:08 PM ET.

Microsoft today performed a goofy blog-announce of the retail pricing of Windows 7 full copies and Windows 7 upgrades and the "good news" is that Windows 7 is slightly cheaper than equivalent versions of Vista. However, customers can save roughly 50% off the upgrade prices in some countries if they preorder in the next month or so at selected retailers (varies by country – e.g. June 26 through July 11 in the USA "while supplies last" at Best Buy, Amazon, and Microsoft Store).

I always enjoy a little hucksterism, but I have to wonder how enthusiastic owners of Vista PCs are going to be about laying out $120 (or $50 for the special preorder deal) for the most common upgrade of Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium? What’s the value proposition? How many of the few new Windows 7 features that aren’t simply Vista fixes do you really want to pay for?

Even worse off are the suckers who purchased Vista Ultimate which Microsoft wants $219 to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate. Throw in a little more cash and you could get a netbook instead. Current Vista owners were the guinea pigs in a flawed Microsoft development process and instead of getting a service pack, they get a bill. Since they either slogged through the morass to make their systems usable (raise your hand if you turned off UAC) or suffered in silence, shouldn’t they get a little more consideration?

Other factoids announced:

Filed under General Business, Marketing, Microsoft, OS - Client, Windows 7, Windows Vista

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June 22, 2009

Microsoft reveals Windows 7 to XP downgrade rights plan

Posted by David Hunter at 11:59 PM ET.

Last week Microsoft revealed to selected members of the press their plan for downgrades to Windows 7. Probably least interesting is that for ordinary PC buyers:

According to Microsoft, those buying the Professional or Ultimate editions of Windows 7 with new PCs from OEMs will have the option to downgrade to the XP Professional edition only, provided that the PCs get purchased before April 22, 2011.

A Microsoft spokesperson explained in an e-mail on Wednesday that the XP downgrade option will be in effect for "PCs that ship within 18 months following the general availability of Windows 7 [namely, before April 22, 2011] or until the release of a Windows 7 service pack, whichever is sooner and if a service pack is developed."

I expect that most consumers don’t care and that this is mostly of interest to small businesses that have some compelling reason to stick with XP for a while. Most usage of downgrade rights in my experience is by large enterprises with volume licenses and IT shops that install custom preloads on their PCs. For them, it’s business as usual:

The rules are a little different for those buying Windows 7 through Microsoft’s Windows Volume Licensing program. If they pay extra for Microsoft’s Software Assurance program, they have "full flexibility to upgrade or downgrade their PCs to older or newer versions of Windows," according to the Microsoft spokesperson.

The ability to downgrade Windows is of particular importance to organizations that need to run older so-called "legacy" applications. These organizations may use custom-built applications running on XP and may need more time before upgrading the OS, either for technical reasons, budgetary reasons or both.

XP is still the primary Windows OS choice among enterprise users. Just 10 percent of enterprises switched from XP to Vista, according to Forrester Research.

Nobody ever got fired by sticking with Windows XP. We’ll see if and when Windows 7 changes the enterprise rules.

Filed under Microsoft, OS - Client, Obsolescence, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

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