Brandon LeBlanc alerts us to a post on JCXP that reveals that Windows Defender, Microsoft’s spyware killer for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, has left beta and is now generally available. You can download a free copy here and users get 2 free support incidents. Since Defender is also effectively built into Vista, it looks like you can write off the non-free competition in the spyware detection and removal niche. Paging Neelie Kroes!
Update: Note that you have to install a Genuine Windows Validation Component in order to install Defender and also that the installation notes say Windows 2000 isn’t supported “as it will be out of mainstream support in October 2006.” Since all versions of Windows 2000 left mainstream support in June 2005, one wonders why it was ever included in recent betas.
Jupiter Research’s Joe Wilcox points to a blog posting by Alex Eckelberry of security software vendor Sunbelt Software that crunches the numbers for Microsoft’s Windows Live OneCare and Antigen enterprise security products and concludes that Microsoft practices predatory pricing:
I don’t often write pieces lambasting Microsoft. I have close friends who work for the company (incidentally, some of the brightest people I know), my company is a Gold Partner and we’re also in business with Microsoft. And, I am one of those who believe that the computing world has actually been made a better place by Microsoft.
My beef is never with the people. My beef is with a number of strategic decisions that have been made by the company that should scare a lot of people. So please, to my friends at Microsoft, don’t take this personally. This stuff just needs to be said.
It’s bad enough that Microsoft is getting in to all aspects of security. But now they are going to kill their competition through predatory pricing.
Hit the link for the calculations, but for Windows Live OneCare, his conclusion is that it is “almost 50% below the market leader, and no one has said a peep.” That seems somewhat overheated since the OneCare MSRP of $49.95 for three machines is easily its most notable aspect and has received quite a bit of comment here and and quite a few other places. It’s also overshadowed by the oddities of the delivery mechanism for consumer security products which generally appear as a trial offers preinstalled on new PCs and based on adoption statistics, seem to be mostly ignored.
More telling is his analysis of the pricing for Microsoft’s Antigen enterprise security products:
Now, let’s move to the enterprise side, specifically virus protection for Microsoft Exchange. Remember that enterprise sales are the bread and butter of companies like Symantec and Trend. This is where the money is made.
Examine the latest pricing for Microsoft Antigen, the old Sybari product re-branded under Microsoft’s new Foreforont line of security products.
As we can see here, Microsoft has priced themselves over 60% less than Symantec, an astonishing difference in price. Microsoft has effectively low-balled the entire antivirus industry in one fell swoop. And their product includes five antivirus engines, not just one.
There’s much more there, but here’s a closing thought:
What should be disturbing about of this all is that we very well might see Microsoft owning a majority in the security space. Despite what their PR flacks tell us, they are hell-bent on getting your business. Look at the Forefront website for yourself. These people mean business. Maybe I’m jaded, as I’ve spent most of my career working for companies that got pummeled by Microsoft (Borland, Quarterdeck, etc.).
Stifling innovation? You bet. What venture capitalist will invest in the next great security idea or product? What entrepreneur will start a new company in the security space, given the risks of competing with Microsoft?
And it’s not just startups. For example, after Microsoft announced the acquisition of Giant Company, a senior executive at a major security company told me that they weren’t going to bother coming out with antispyware functionality, since Microsoft had already made that product free. While that company has since changed their mind, it was a chilling conversation.
As I’ve mentioned before in regards to Windows Defender (antispyware), Windows Live Safety Settings, and application transfer applications, there’s no more predatory pricing than free and I can’t help but believe that Microsoft’s heading for another confrontation with antitrust regulators around the world.
Ryan Naraine at eWeek:
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – In a rare discussion about the severity of the Windows malware scourge, a Microsoft security official said businesses should consider investing in an automated process to wipe hard drives and reinstall operating systems as a practical way to recover from malware infestation.
Yikes – don’t encourage them! My experience with large corporate IT departments is that their answer to just about any nontrivial problem is wiping the machine. Of course, the statement is actually more explicit:
“When you are dealing with rootkits and some advanced spyware programs, the only solution is to rebuild from scratch. In some cases, there really is no way to recover without nuking the systems from orbit,” Mike Danseglio, program manager in the Security Solutions group at Microsoft, said in a presentation at the InfoSec World conference here.
He cited a recent instance where an unnamed branch of the U.S. government struggled with malware infestations on more than 2,000 client machines. “In that case, it was so severe that trying to recover was meaningless. They did not have an automated process to wipe and rebuild the systems, so it became a burden. They had to design a process real fast,” Danseglio added.
I guess the government isn’t keeping up with the private sector in this regard. I hope they at least had automated data backup. More details on Danseglio’s view of the current state of the malware situation and remediation measures by following the link.
Joris Evers at CNET plays a dirge for independent antispyware vendors in Spyware-killing Vista could take out rivals. Some of it is due to changes in Vista and Internet Explorer 7, but a lot is due to the free Microsoft Defender offering:
While this may be good news for buyers of Vista, it is not for anyone who makes a living from selling anti-spyware software. The worldwide market has boomed recently, reaching $97 million in revenue in 2004, up 240.4 percent from a year earlier, according to IDC. However, companies such as Webroot Software and Sunbelt Software are in for tough times, analysts said.
“The aftermarket for Windows anti-spyware is going to dry up almost completely,” said Yankee Group analyst Andrew Jaquith. “Windows Defender is going to become the default anti-spyware engine, certainly for most consumers that have Vista machines.”
Gartner’s Pescatore agreed. “Integrating Windows Defender into Windows Vista is sort of the last nail into the standalone anti-spyware coffin,” he said.
Following the link provides some responses from the vendors who are talking a brave story and/or whistling past the graveyard, but I think the big story here is that this seems like prime antitrust regulator bait. We can all frame the argument – “Company with predominant market share buys aftermarket firm, then offers its product for free driving other aftermarket firms out of business.” The best Microsoft defense is likely a claim of quality enhancement for their operating system products, which isn’t too flattering, but may do the trick.