The software maker plans to acquire GeCad, a small Romanian antivirus vendor, in order to offer Microsoft-branded antivirus protection.
The deal, the financial terms of which were not disclosed, would add a team of antivirus experts to Microsoft's stable of developers and give the company the ability to offer antivirus systems across all its products, a representative said. Security experts from the 100-employee company will also work to make the Windows operating system work better with products from third-party antivirus vendors, Microsoft said.
The move is likely to change the competitive landscape for antivirus vendors such as Network Associates and Symantec, and could even raise the specter of Netscape Communications--the Internet browser leader that was sidelined when Microsoft bundled its own browser into Windows.
Microsoft said that, although it was planning to acquire GeCad's intellectual property, it would not continue developing the company's products. Microsoft did not say how many of GeCad's employees it intended to retain. The deal must still get regulatory approval.
The GeCad agreement arose out of Microsoft's "Trustworthy Computing" initiative, which is aimed, among other things, at improving the track record of Windows' security.
"Malicious code and worms are a big threat to our customers," said Hilary Wittman, Microsoft's security marketing manager for the United Kingdom.
As a side benefit, Wittman said the acquisition would give Microsoft a more significant presence in software development in Europe.
Matthew Broersma reported from London.