Microsoft announces imminent security release

The software giant has promised a beta of an enterprise security product by the end of 2005

Microsoft announced on Thursday it will release a beta for an "integrated security solution" before the end of the year.

The beta of Microsoft Client Protection will be aimed at business desktops, laptops and file servers, and will be "primarily anti-malware", according to Mike Chan, Microsoft anti-spyware product manager.

"The major thing about the product is that it's one single solution, and it's integated. Part of it is based on our consumer anti-spyware product," Chan said, speaking at the Virus Bulletin International Conference in Dublin.

"The fact that it's anti-malware will make it competitive. It's one product. With Symantec for example you have to buy different components if you want to integrate reporting. With our product you can do that straight off," Chan added.

The beta will also enable system administrators to monitor users. "It gives visibility" and can "be integrated with a business' current infrastructure," according to Chan.

Microsoft hopes to release a commercial version of the product in 2007. "Pricing will be competitive but there's no dollar amount yet." Chan said.

Mikko Hyppönen, director of anti-virus research at security company F-Secure, welcomed the move by Microsoft. "I can't wait to get my hands on it," he said.

Microsoft also announced the launch of the product at an event in Munich, Germany, where chief executive Steve Ballmer and Mike Nash, a corporate vice-president in charge of security efforts, discussed the company's security strategy and product road map at a news conference.

The company had previously said it would deliver security products for businesses, pitting it against established players including Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro.

Microsoft is already testing Windows OneCare, the consumer counterpart of the newly announced Client Protection product. On Thursday, Debby Fry Wilson, director of security engineering and communications at Microsoft, said the company plans to deliver the final version of OneCare sometime next year.

In addition to its plans to secure enterprise PCs and file servers, Microsoft also said it is preparing the release of Microsoft Antigen for Exchange. The antivirus software for email servers is a fruit of the company's acquisition of Sybari Software early this year. A test version of some form is due in the first half of next year, Microsoft said.

Three other Microsoft-branded Antigen products will also be available in beta next year, Fry Wilson said. These are Microsoft Antigen for SMTP Gateways, Microsoft Antigen Spam Manager and Microsoft Antigen Enterprise Manager, the representative said.

Thursday's announcements show Microsoft has not put security on the back burner, but the company continues to lag in actually delivering products and in providing clear road maps, said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

"Microsoft is doing a good job of telling us the direction they are going; we just don't know when they are going to get there," Cherry said. "Even though we know that they are going to beta some stuff, we still don't know when customers are going to be able to purchase and deploy it."