Symantec: Sour Microsoft grapes or a real beef?

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.

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TOPICS: Symantec
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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.

Topic: Symantec

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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12 comments
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  • Pre-judging

    Just as there were those who saw Microsoft's inability to provide acceptable documentation of protocols as evidence that the company was hiding something, so there are people who believe that Microsoft's delay in providing information about Vista as evidence that the company is using an unfair strategy.

    I'll assert Microsoft does not need a conscious strategy to be late.

    I think Symantec is going to lose a lot of its market share. Not because of Microsoft tricks, but because Symantec's products are of such a quality that the market share should be lost.

    But that won't be what Symantec states in public.
    Anton Philidor
    • When is the evidence going to be enough?

      "Just as there were those who saw Microsoft's inability to provide
      acceptable documentation of protocols as evidence that the
      company was hiding something, so there are people who believe
      that Microsoft's delay in providing information about Vista as
      evidence that the company is using an unfair strategy."

      Perhaps it's because we have seen this behaviour repeated again
      and again. This behaviour formed the basis of Novell's case
      against MS in the workgroup market (MS actually went further
      and broke Novell's code after they worked it out themselves),
      and was highlighted in the DoJ case with the development of
      Word which went on to overtake WordPerfect (handy to have
      windows developers swapping back and forth between the Word
      team before the competition even gets the WIN32 API).

      Withholding Defender APIs issues demonstrates that MS has no
      intention of ever complying with antitrust restrictions placed on
      it making the DoJ look like fools, and sure to make the EC even
      more determined. MS legal counsel must have given them advice
      on this years ago.

      Anton you're an intelligent man but I find your position on MS
      and antitrust bewildering. Anton when is the evidence going to
      be enough?
      Richard Flude
      • Considering . . .

        How messed up MS has proven itself when it comes to documentation, I think I'm gonna have to side with Anton on this one. Ineptness is NOT proof of conspiracy . . .
        jlhenry62
      • Timing.

        If Microsoft is telling the truth, then the decision to supply an API which allows Windows Defender to be turned off was made only in August after complaints. The API was provided in September.

        You have a point that Microsoft need not have waited that long to recognize that competitors would want to supercede the company's products. But the schedule itself makes sense if Microsoft were indeed that naive.

        The choice here is between heedlessness and dishonesty. Neither is creditable to Microsoft. I'll wait for better evidence to choose.


        Relevant quotes from the linked article:

        "As a result of our ongoing dialogue with partners and our customers, Microsoft decided in August this year to add the ability for any security software company to programmatically disable Windows Defender access through an API," a Microsoft representative said.

        ...

        Microsoft added the functionality to disable Windows Defender in Release Candidate 1 of Vista, or RC1, which came out early this month. There may have been some confusion in the industry because the accompanying information for developers, called a software development kit, or SDK, did not provide details on the functionality, the company said.

        "Two weeks after releasing RC1, we provided the follow-up documentation, which was released out-of-band; normally we release it with major milestones," said Adrien Robinson, business development manager at Microsoft. "The confusion, I think, that people are having is that the functionality is not in the RC1 SDK, and the reason for that is that we added it just before RC1."
        Anton Philidor
    • re: Pre-Judging

      Microsoft may or may not be playing dirty, but Occam's razor favors incompetence over conspiracy. Nevertheless, just because you think they're out to get you doesn't mean they're not. I'm willing to withhold judgment in this case.

      I also agree that Symantec will be losing market share due to lack of quality in their own products. IMHO, this would happen even [i]without[/i] a Vista release. I have found that Symantec problems are second only to deliberate malware in the number of problems they cause in my own customers' machines: everything from sluggishness to pure buggy behaviour. Perhaps this is only true of my customer base, but I think not. In any event, my standard advice to customers with Symantec's Internet Security suite installed is now to remove it and use alternatives.
      dave.leigh@...
      • Put away your razor

        Occam's razor states when given two equally valid explanations for a phenomenon, one should embrace the less complicated formulation.

        It's not a question of incompetence over conspiracy, but of willful behaviour over incompetence. Behaviour MS has exhibited in the past and the EC found to be continuing is the less complicate formulation.
        Richard Flude
  • Understatement

    [i]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.[/i]

    And for as long afterward as it can without facing a Federal Marshall padlocking the doors in Redmond.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Definitly a case of sour grapes

    Its not like Symantec will be writing the entire software from scratch only after knowing the APIs. The changes are just for the software to be compatible with Windows Defender.



    "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. "

    If Linux distros can make a distirbution with whatever what feel they want to be in there, then Microsoft has every right to install what it feels is necessary. Its healthy competition.
    Forcing Microsoft not to install is like tying Microsoft's hands.
    zzz1234567890
    • Of course the difference is

      that you can choose not to install any of those Linux packages you do not want or need. This is rarely the case in Windows. You either HAVE to install the extra software they include with no choice for uninstallation, or you have to jump through hoops to uninstall them and quell any error messages that pop up as a result of their absence.

      Now, having said all that, I do agree that MS has a right, and an obligation, to do what is necessary to secure their OS. This is not about adding a movie editor, this is about improving their product to the standards their customers expect.
      Michael Kelly
  • Symantec in trouble, jump aboard

    ". 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. "

    So what are they complaining now. Shouldnt they have complained months back.

    I've got friends who worked in Symantec. Most tell that the software is not well designed and hard to maintain.

    This is just Symantec playing dirty.
    code_Warrior
    • All it is...

      Is a sinking ship not realizing their sinking.

      When Microsoft starts building stuff into their O/S. Nothing will compete with it, especially if it costs money.
      ju1ce
  • RE: Symantec: Sour Microsoft grapes or a real beef?

    test
    julieboston