FAQ: Inside Microsoft's Client Protection

Product marks company's entry into market for desktop security products for businesses, but not much is known about it yet.

Joris Evers Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Joris Evers covers security.
Joris Evers
3 min read
Thursday's announcement of Microsoft's Client Protection software marks the company's long-anticipated entry into the market for desktop security products for businesses.

Microsoft faces a tough battle as it competes with established players, including Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro.

Analysts have criticized Microsoft for being vague about its security product plans. The software maker said Thursday that over the past couple years, it has focused on securing its existing products and improving patching for customers. "Now the effort is shifting to deliver a new generation of security products," said Debby Fry Wilson, director of security engineering and communications.

So what is Client Protection? We'll try to tackle that question below.

What is Microsoft's new security software?
Microsoft Client Protection is software for business PCs and file servers that's designed to offer, in one application, protection against spyware, viruses and root kits. The company says its software will offer IT administrators central management capabilities and that it'll work with the company's Active Directory and Windows Server Updates Services patch management tool.

How is it different from Windows OneCare?
Windows OneCare is the consumer equivalent of Microsoft Client Protection. OneCare has been available to beta testers since earlier this year and will combine antivirus and anti-spyware protection with PC health tools. The consumer product lacks enterprise necessities such as central management. Microsoft said Thursday that a final version of OneCare is due in 2006. It will be sold on a subscription basis. Pricing has not been disclosed.

What is the security technology behind Microsoft Client Protection?
The upcoming product will be built on an enhanced version of the GeCad antivirus software Microsoft acquired in 2003 and the Giant Company Software anti-spyware product it bought in late 2004.

What about Windows AntiSpyware?
Windows AntiSpyware is software that's designed to protect consumer PCs against, of course, spyware. It's based on technology Microsoft acquired from Giant. Windows AntiSpyware has been available in beta test version since January, and the company is expected to deliver a final version in 2006. Microsoft has said the tool will be free.

What does Microsoft Client Protection compete with?
The new product will be up against enterprise security products from established players such as Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro. Microsoft's product is unproven, and it will take time to allay years of skepticism among business users before the market will accept the offering, Merrill Lynch analysts said Thursday.

What systems will Microsoft Client Protection run on?
It will run on Windows XP and its successor, Windows Vista, which is due late 2006. (Vista was previously known by its Longhorn code name.)

How much will it cost?
Microsoft has not yet disclosed pricing or licensing details. Client Protection will likely be sold on a license basis, as opposed to a subscription model.

When will it be available?
A "limited beta" is due by year's end. Microsoft is sending mixed messages about when a final version of the product will ship. Fry Wilson declined on Thursday to specify a delivery target for Client Protection, but a document published to the Microsoft Web site Thursday shows a 2006 ship target. (Download Word document.)

When will more details be available?
Microsoft says it expects to be able to provide more information in the coming months.