Webroot expands beyond spyware niche

Partnership with Sophos lets company add antivirus to anti-spyware products as Microsoft readies Windows Vista.

Webroot Software is expanding beyond the spyware niche by teaming with antivirus company Sophos, a critical move as Microsoft gets ready to ship Windows Vista.

The Boulder, Colo.-based anti-spyware specialist will license Sophos technology for use in consumer and enterprise products, including its flagship Spy Sweeper software, Webroot said in a statement Wednesday. The first hybrid antivirus and anti-spyware product is slated to be announced by the end this month, it said.

"Spyware and viruses are the two most dangerous types of Internet security threats facing PC users today," David Moll, Webroot's chief executive, said in a statement. "We will protect users from these threats with a single, intuitive solution."

Webroot is expanding beyond its niche of busting spyware as it faces a serious threat to its business: Microsoft's Windows Vista. Analysts have said Vista, which is being designed to shut the door on spyware, could put niche players such as Webroot out of business.

Spyware, insidious software that pops up ads on screens or spies on PC users, has become a serious security problem for users of Microsoft's operating systems in recent years, giving rise to a host of third-party tools to fight the insidious software.

While anti-spyware used to be the terrain of small, specialty companies such as Webroot, it is quickly becoming more of a commodity. Security companies such as McAfee and Symantec have added anti-spyware detection to their products, for example.

Vista, the long-awaited successor to Windows XP slated to be broadly available in January, will introduce important changes at the heart of the operating system, as well as to Internet Explorer, and include Windows Defender, an anti-spyware tool. Microsoft has described Vista as the most secure version of Windows yet.

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