Qwest a Microsoft Security Customer
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ISP Qwest Communications became the first to support Microsoft's recently unveiled Windows Live OneCare security product.
Although the announcement doesn't signal an antivirus revolt, the move is a "step in the right direction for Microsoft," according to experts.
Qwest is offering a OneCare subscription for free to its 1.7 million broadband users despite the fact that Microsoft charges $50 for the retail version.
A rollout date or financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Qwest, which also offers antivirus protection from Microsoft rival McAfee as part of an MSN Premium service, said the move is part of an eventual adoption of the Windows Live platform, which the Denver-based ISP expects to make available later this year.
While McAfee will continue to be part of MSN Premium, Qwest spokesperson Kate Varden told internetnews.com that it will not be offered with Windows Live.
Qwest is one of the two ISPs that has bundled the Microsoft MSN Premium service with its broadband connections, according to Matt Rosoff of Directions on Microsoft.
But that relationship, plus Microsoft's minor investment in Qwest, doesn't necessarily mean future ISP agreements.
The agreement shows Microsoft has convinced at least one ISP, but Qwest is not anywhere near the size of Comcast, Yankee Group security analyst Jonathan Singer said.
McAfee currently is embraced by some of the largest ISPs, including Comcast, AOL and EarthLink.
After Qwest, who may next adopt OneCare? "Verizon is the next likely candidate," Rosoff said.
A Microsoft spokesperson refused comment on any upcoming agreements with other ISPs, saying only "additional partners are not out of the question."
While today's announcement "shows how aggressive [Microsoft] can be, just because they enter a market, doesn't mean they're always going to win," Chris Swenson of NPD Group said.
Symantec, which could be another security vendor feeling the pinch of Microsoft competition, has sued Microsoft for misappropriating its intellectual property and breaching its contract and patent infringement.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec in May asked a Seattle district court to stop Microsoft from selling Vista.
Symantec CEO John Thompson has called Microsoft a "Johnny-come-lately" to security software.
Unlike the firewall included with Windows XP Service Pack 2, Vista handles both inbound and outbound traffic, something currently available from Symantec, McAfee and others.
Vista will also include Windows Defender, a freely available anti-spyware application.
Despite the demanding hardware requirements of Vista, including 1GB of memory, a Pentium 4 processor and 128MB video card, Yankee Group analyst Andrew Jaquith told internetnews.com in May "free and good enough beats costly and elegant."
But Symantec and McAfee aren't standing by as Microsoft rushes in.
Automatic security updates are nothing exclusive to Microsoft, said Swenson. All three security vendors plan to offer similar subscription security products.
Symantec plans to release a test version of its subscription-based Norton 360, code-named Genesis, in July. And McAfee said in a statement it will release its product, code-named Falcon, this summer.
Falcon will make managing security transparent, according to the company.
For Microsoft, the burden of proof remains on the software giant.
"Are these guys going to take 70 percent of the market overnight? Of course not," Swenson said.