Win 8 security won't replace antivirus vendors

New plans to bundle security suite brings convenience to users, but unlikely to dominate antivirus market as users trust third party vendors more deeply, analysts state.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

The upcoming Microsoft's Windows 8 offers a pre-installed security suite, bringing convenience to customers but market watchers note that it will not render third-party antivirus software redundant due to their constant innovation and customer loyalty.

As the software would be bundled, there would be a fairly high chance of customers sticking with Microsoft's security suite, noted Aliza Shima Mohammad Kasim, industry analyst of Asia-Pacific ICT Practice at Frost & Sullivan, adding that customers would rather enjoy "free items" rather than spend money from their own pockets.

Elaborating, the Malaysia-based analyst noted that Windows 8 security would come bundled with Microsoft Security Essentials--a software package which helps protect systems from malware, spyware and Trojans--instead of needing a separate installation as in current versions.

The new edition would also feature improvements including increased security of the app environment, enhanced filters against malware, firewall and parental control as well as protection from USB drives which are infected with malware, Phil Hassey, owner of Australia-based CapioIT, noted in an e-mail.

Windows 8 would hence continue on the improvements to Microsoft's security position, adding a "richer security layer", Andrew Kellett, senior analyst of Ovum noted in an e-mail. He likened it to Internet Explorer (IE) 10 having a more secure browser, compared with cloud-based reputation controls of its predecessor IE9.

Unlikely to dominate
Still, industry insiders felt that the bundled suite was not likely to cause the death of third-party antivirus makers. This is despite the move being similar to that nearly 20 years ago when Microsoft bundled its Internet Explorer browser into Windows, helping it to crush the competition in the Web-browser space--most notably its biggest rival Netscape Navigator.

The malware protection that consumers buy today will not be "redundant" because users have grown to trust third party vendors such as Symantec, McAfee, Kaspersky Labs and Trend Micro, said Kellett. In fact, he added, many would also continue to use freeware alternatives such as AVG because of a high-level of trust in the product.

CapioIT's Hassey also agreed that the trust factor was important, as most users have had a "largely positive" experience with third party vendors.

Also working against Microsoft was the perception among some critics that it suffered from "a lack of security", he added. There would thus be little motivation to move towards a potentially "un-trusted" brand such as Microsoft, he said.

Kasim also observed that Microsoft Security Essentials, despite having been around for many years, had "not much of an effect" on other antivirus software sales to consumers and enterprises.

The third-party makers also always think of better ways to innovate and evolve to stay ahead of competitors, and view Microsoft's move as "healthy competition", she added.

"They will need a large number of long term proof points to turnaround the perception [of having a lack of security]," Hassey said. "The third party vendors continue to evolve their offerings and integration across devices."

Suite must keep up with cybercriminals
A track record of success and providing a good experience will enable Microsoft to win customers over from third-party antivirus software vendors, Hassey said, but noted that it would be difficult in the short term.

Kasim also surmised that Microsoft could strike a partnership or acquisition of a third-party antivirus maker to further enhance its security capabilities.

However, she warned that cybercriminals would always find new ways to bypass every new development in the security arena. As such, one single suite across all devices would pose a huge threat in the event of a cyberattack, but having a third-party antivirus will double the protection, she explained.

For now, Microsoft will need to ensure its security suite can withstand attacks from cybercriminals and increase the level of confidence from its customers, she advised.

Microsoft declined to comment when approached by ZDNet Asia.

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