Microsoft Solid, Not Dominant in Security Software

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Now that Microsoft  has
acquired a number of security vendors and put them under an umbrella called
ForeFront, the temptation is to think the largest software vendor in the
world is looking to conquer one of the most crucial parts of the broad
software market.

With that multi-billion-dollar bank account, Symantec and McAfee should run
and hide, right?

Not so fast, said Gartner analyst Neil MacDonald, who detailed Microsoft’s
position in the mature, yet evolving market for security software at the
Gartner Symposium/ITxpo here.

“Is Microsoft going to be a significant enterprise security player or are
they just a ‘me, too’ player with look-alike lower-priced products for small
and medium-sized businesses?” MacDonald said. “That’s what they are, and
that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

MacDonald said Microsoft will not be a so-called “best-of-breed” vendor and
it hasn’t yet articulated a clear vision for offering antivirus or
anti-spyware together despite its latest ForeFront push, which includes antivirus, security services, edge and client

The analyst said Microsoft can gain credibility by undercutting Symantec and
McAfee on prices for security software, a practice the company has employed
consistently to build its empire.

MacDonald said Microsoft’s entrance into the security market has shaken
Symantec  and McAfee up, forcing them to
cut their prices and rethink their packaging.

“The fact that Microsoft entered the market and shook up the status quo —
good,” MacDonald said. “Prices are coming down for all of you in the room.
You’re getting more security functionality for less money.”

Consumers get the cheaper software package while Symantec and McAfee go
after Microsoft in other way, complaining
to the European Union
that Vista infringes on patents and locks them out
of the desktop.

Microsoft has its work cut out for it.

MacDonald said the company needs to integrate security software across its
platforms, provide application control and hardening, provide cross-platform
security support for Linux and Macintosh and security for mobile devices,
including those that run its own CE operating system.

“They are missing a lot of capabilities and that’s why I came to the
conclusion that they are me, too, look-alike, lower cost and never be best
of breed,” MacDonald said.

But Microsoft has operational security strengths, thanks to its operating
system, as well as a solid consumer product in its Windows Live OneCare
product, whose beta went live today.

OneCare boasts antivirus and anti-spyware scanners and managed, two-way
firewall, to protect computers from viruses, worms, Trojan horses, hackers
and other threats.

MacDonald also said Microsoft has to put its conflicts of interest to bed,
reconciling the fact that although they sell some insecure products they are
capable of making products that protect PCs.

Microsoft has won some tough battles though, proving with XP that it is no
less secure an OS than supported versions of Linux from Red Hat  or Novell , MacDonald said.

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