Microsoft about to debut antivirus tools?

Speculation among security industry sources suggests that Microsoft may be preparing to introduce its standalone antivirus software next week.

Industry watchers said Thursday that the software giant very well could take the wraps off its emerging security product plans in a scheduled announcement on Monday, although the sources indicated their belief that the applications themselves may not reach the market for several more months. Microsoft representatives did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the rumor.

At least one security expert said that Microsoft is readying a shrink-wrapped antivirus package that it will offer through retail channels for "significantly less" than $25. Based on the level of sophistication of the product, or whether it includes tools for fighting different types of malicious programs--including spam and adware--the Microsoft offering could undercut pricing of similar products sold by security specialists such as Symantec and McAfee.

Researchers at Gartner estimate that only 13 percent of consumer-operated desktop computers connected to the Internet have third-party antivirus tools. By offering low-cost security applications branded to sell alongside its dominant Windows operating system and Office desktop software, experts have said that Microsoft could persuade many people who have yet to buy antivirus products to fork over their money.

Microsoft has made it no secret that it hopes to capitalize on the growing demand for security software in a number of different ways. The company has already launched a beta version of its free anti-spyware application, and Chairman Bill Gates recently detailed the software maker's plans to integrate anti-malware technology into Longhorn, the next version of Windows, due out in 2006.

Over the last two years, Microsoft has amassed a range of different security technologies via a string of acquisitions. In February 2005, the company purchased Sybari Software, a maker of software used with Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes messaging servers to fight viruses, worms and spam. In December 2004, Microsoft purchased anti-spyware specialist Giant Company Software, and in 2003 the company bought GeCad, through which it picked up technology and staff to develop an antivirus "engine," or core software that recognizes malicious code.

 

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