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Commentary: Microsoft's antivirus inoculation

The company's purchase of GeCad spells long-term trouble for Network Associates and Symantec. But IT managers don't have any decisions to make until the next platform upgrade, circa 2005.

Commentary: Microsoft's antivirus inoculation
By Forrester Research
Special to CNET
June 10, 2003, 2:40PM PT

By Laura Koetzle, Senior Analyst

Microsoft's purchase of antivirus unknown GeCad Software spells long-term trouble for Network Associates and Symantec. For now, though, users should stick with their current antivirus products and look for the software giant to claim a slice of the antivirus market in 2005.

Microsoft announced Tuesday morning that it will acquire the antivirus assets of tiny Romanian security vendor GeCad. It will hire some of GeCad's developers and phase out GeCad's existing antivirus products. Forrester spoke with Microsoft Group Product Manager Amy Carroll and Senior Director Jonathan Perera about the deal. What happens next?

• Users should proceed with their current antivirus vendors. Microsoft isn't announcing any antivirus software at this point, but Forrester thinks it's inevitable. We expect the company to ship an

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integrated solution with the next release of Windows, code-named Longhorn. Meaning? IT managers don't have any decisions to make until the next platform upgrade, circa 2005.

• Antivirus ISVs will--correctly--see Microsoft as a new threat. Redmond's party line is that the GeCad deal will let Microsoft make Windows a better platform for third-party antivirus products. But antivirus titans Network Associates and Symantec won't be fooled, and they will accelerate their diversification into areas like security event management and intrusion detection.

• Microsoft will eventually deliver good-enough antivirus. Today's antivirus vendors no longer really compete on their ability to catch viruses--after all, the top vendors all score well at this task. Instead, they compete on other factors, such as manageability and integration with other IT security products. Eventually, Microsoft will deliver good-enough antivirus code in the operating system, yielding a manageability advantage and substantial market share.

© 2003, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.