Symantec: Sour Microsoft grapes or a real beef?

Summary:I’ve consciously refrained from weighing in on Symantec’s mounting efforts to fight back against Microsoft with Windows Vista. The reason? I’ve been vacillating.

I’ve consciously refrained from weighing in on Symantec’s mounting efforts to fight back against Microsoft with Windows Vista.

The reason? I’ve been vacillating. When I see some of Symantec’s Vista complaints, I shout out (in my head, not on the streets of New York City, mind you): “Grow up, Symantec! Find something real to complain about!” (Not a feature that Microsoft fixed in a more updated test release.)

But in the next moment, I find myself nodding in agreement with Symantec’s claims that Microsoft is a monopolizing bully that needs more Neelie Kroes to push the company around.

Symantec’s latest complaints – which company officials are detailing to anyone who will listen this week -- focus again on various security elements Microsoft is embedding in Vista, including the Windows Security Center, PatchGuard and Windows Defender.

My (and many others’) initial knee-jerk reaction is to brush off Symantec’s critiques as evidence of a company who, by its own ineptness, has allowed Microsoft to come in and eat its lunch. If Symantec really was providing the best security products on the market, wouldn’t Microsoft’s decision to bundle the Windows Defender anti-spyware technology into Vista have relatively little impact on Symantec’s own anti-spyware solutions?

However, things are not quite so clear-cut. As history has shown, Microsoft will push the envelope, getting away with as much as it can, until regulators, lawyers or others call the company out regarding its behavior.

Example: Microsoft’s refusal until the eleventh hour to provide Symantec and other security vendors with the application programming interfaces (APIs) needed to insure their products will be compatible with Windows Defender. Microsoft did not make the Defender APIs available until September 22, even though the company announced months ago its plans to bundle Defender into the product.

Microsoft also “decided” (or, was forced, I’d argue, by potential legal threats) to make Windows Defender and OEM- and user-selectable option, rather a required install, as of Release Candidate (RC) 1 of Vista. Would Microsoft had made this move by choice? No way!

Symantec and other security vendors who’ve been (relatively) happy Microsoft customers are discovering what a number of other current and former Microsoft partners have learned the hard way: If Microsoft wants your lunch, it has no qualms about grabbing it and running off with it. That’s why we still need lunch ladies to patrol those cafeterias.

Topics: Security


Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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