Microsoft Security Essentials, the freeware security application from Microsoft, has only been available for download for a few hours and some of you have already been in touch wanting to know what I think the fallout will be from it.
A free antivirus applications isn't a new thing, but a big player like Microsoft making a security application available for free is bound to cause waves. So, what is the likely fallout?
- While publicly the major security vendors have been playing things cool, privately they are scrabbling to come up with a decent response.
- The first response from the big security firms is likely to be a PR/white paper barrage telling us all how good their product is and how rubbish everyone else's is, especially Microsoft's.
- Following that, I think that a price war is inevitable, although price is a weak point for anyone trying to sell a product when going up against Microsoft's free offering. Still, looking at the price of security software nowadays, there's plenty of wriggle room.
- Innovation ... you never know, this might be just the catalyst that the security industry needs to start innovating. I just hope it's not innovation that leads to pointless bloat.
- One area that Microsoft Security Essentials is likely to have an effect on is free antivirus. People who provide unpaid tech support for family and friends are likely to turn to Microsoft Security Essentials as a quick and easy way to provide protection. With Microsoft Security Essentials there's no nag screens, toolbars, and other crapware to worry about.
- Microsoft Security Essentials doesn't affect the enterprise market at all, so no one is affected there.
- Expect the security industry to start pushing "security suites" even harder than they do now. This could even be the end of the stand alone antivirus software as we know it.
- Will Microsoft Security Essentials force some vendors to the wall? I doubt it.
Before I close, I do want to highlight one move that I think was bone-headed on Microsoft's part, and that was requiring users to pass Windows validation before installation. The folks running pirated software are just the folks that need free antivirus. Microsoft shouldn't look at it as giving something for free to those who aren't paying, but as a way of making the web a safer place for those who do pay for their software.