A New Security Strategy For Microsoft?

UPDATED: Microsoft is expanding its security protection services with the upcoming launch of two new products, officials announced Thursday.

The security offerings are part of a two-pronged strategy of partnerships and products outlined by Steve Ballmer, the software giant’s CEO, and Mike Nash, Microsoft’s security technology unit corporate vice president.

“At Microsoft, we’re investing heavily in security because we want customers to be able to trust their computing experiences, so they can realize the full benefits of the interconnected world we live in,” Ballmer said in a statement.

“With the continuing onslaught of malware, viruses, phishing attacks and other kinds of Internet fraud, creating a more secure computing environment requires a concerted, long-term effort on the part of all technology companies, as well as customers and government.”

The strategy is a follow-up maneuver to a statement made by Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, at the RSA Conference in February: “security is the most important thing we’re doing,” he told attendees at the time.

The genesis for Microsoft’s security movement — Windows and Microsoft software have been plagued with a large number of vulnerabilities for years now — was Gates’ Trustworthy Computing initiative.

Toward that end, Baller and Nash unveiled Microsoft Antigen, an anti-spam, antivirus product for its messaging and collaboration servers based on technology acquired from Sybari Software in February.

Antigen, which will include its own antivirus scan engine, will be available to Microsoft Exchange customers as a beta in the first half of 2006.

Ballmer and Nash also announced the beta launch later this year of Microsoft Client Protection (MCP), an all-in-one security product with integrated management and reporting capabilities for enterprise customers.

MCP is designed to protect networks from spyware, rootkits, viruses and other types of attacks, officials said, all managed by the IT staff through a console that provides reports and alerts.

While Microsoft pushes ahead with its own security offerings, officials are also looking to strengthen its relationship with its partners on the Microsoft platform.

The company launched SecureIT Alliance, which was initially comprised of a 30-member coalition from the software world that includes Symantec , VeriSign , RSA Security , Computer Associates and Altiris .

The organization will be a clearinghouse for security-minded vendors to provide information and best-practices information on their products, as well as a consumer portal for information on protecting their computers.

Microsoft intends to post beta-version copies of upcoming software, SDKs , its development labs and early adopter programs to members of the alliance, which is limited to Certified and Gold Certified members of the Microsoft Partner Program.

Nash said security is an industry problem that can only be addressed by the entire industry, thus the creation of the SecureIT Alliance.

“Our customers will benefit because they’ll get better security products from a wide range of vendors. And our industry partners will benefit, too, because they’ll get better information in technical depth into integrating with our platform.”

The site will launch later this year, Microsoft officials stated.

The upcoming software releases raise a thorny issue with Microsoft. At what point are you undercutting the partners you want to please the customers you need?

With the release of security offerings for enterprise customers, Microsoft could very well displace some of the business likely now going to security vendor partners like Symantec, CA and McAfee .

UPDATED: The Redmond giant has already dabbled in the security software arena with the launch of anti-spyware and malicous software removal tools.

A Microsoft spokesperson said the company will continue to work collaboratively with its security partners, but believes its critical it continues to make big investments in their own solutions.

Security software isn’t a place Microsoft wants to go in the first place as its primarily line of business, but needs to because their customers demand it, said Laura DiDio, a research fellow at the Yankee Group.

Microsoft, she said, has made huge strides in shoring up its security issues since the launch of the Trustworthy Computing intiative, and its SecureIT Alliance is a good indication the company is serious about its goal of working with, not replacing, its partners.

The software Microsoft is getting ready to launch is pivotal and may encroach a bit on its partners but doubts it will sway customers from the offerings from security-centric vendors.

“This is meant to be complementary and an adjunct to it,” she said.

News Around the Web