Rumor has it that Microsoft will release its long anticipated OneCare Live security subscription suite this summer charging consumers about $50 for the service.
Microsoft in the consumer security space?!! Yup, get used to it. In fact, it's time to set the record straight.
First off, there is far too much industry belly aching. It's time that everyone forgets about security flaws in Windows 98; that's ancient history. Many insiders also question Microsoft's motivation to produce secure code when it enters the desktop security space.
Attention Microsoft bashers: This product is all about money and control, not security.
On the money side, we are talking about a global desktop software market in the $5 billion range that Microsoft hasn't played in. Can you think of another area where this is true? Symantec, McAfee, Trend, and others have printed money over the past five years by selling security subscriptions creating a wildly profitable annuity stream. Microsoft would be crazy NOT to jump into this pool.
As far as control, security can fit in nicely with other products and services. Microsoft recently acquired Frontbridge, an e-mail security service provider. Could it use OneCare as a "Trojan Horse" (author's note: I know that this is a terrible metaphor for a security piece but I can't think of another) to upsell consumers on a secure e-mail service? How about linking OneCare with Microsoft Data Protection Manager so it can work with ISPs or provide system backup as an MSN service? Could Microsoft build a subscription model using security first and then introduce a similar model with other desktop software?
Another piece of desktop real estate opens up a lot of options for the folks in Redmond. This is true in both the consumer AND commercial space where Microsoft already has a ton of operations tools and services to bundle with OneCare.
As far as consumer distribution is concerned, the security crowd depends upon retail, OEM, and on-line sales. Microsoft certainly has shelf space and strong relationships with retailers.
Expect Microsoft to take a page out of its past by pressuring OEMs to bundle OneCare on new PCs. Anyone remember Netscape? Microsoft also has countless ways of selling OneCare on line.
OneCare won't put Symantec and McAfee out of business but it certainly changes the rules in a market that until recently resembled an oligopoly. Consider also that everyone knows Microsoft while Symantec and McAfee are relatively unknown outside of the intersection of Wall Street and Geek Road.
Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't say that Bill Gates and Co. does not have a nose for business. Security nerds, Linux lovers, and Microsoft haters are missing the point.