Microsoft sent waves through the security community when it announced that it was going to be offering free antivirus software for Windows Vista and Windows 7 by the end of 2009. Built around Microsoft's Live OneCare's internals, the new antivirus program essentially repackages this previous iteration, while trimming some luxury features like hard drive utilities and major network support.
However, the antivirus makers are not going down without a fight. While it may be hard to beat free, that's exactly what the biggest names in the security software industry hope to do.
Three companies -- Kaspersky Lab, AVG Internet Security, and Symantec -- all have released versions of their upcoming Windows 7 software for public preview, in order to show the progress of their efforts and lure potential customers. Symantec released a 3.0 beta of the upcoming Norton 360, AVG released a full basic version of its AVG Anti-virus built around Microsoft's OS beta, and Kaspersky is offering a technical preview of Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Windows 7.
Windows communications manager Brandon LeBlanc said that Microsoft has a healthy relationship with these firms stating, "Microsoft has been actively working with security partners to help them get their applications ready for Windows 7. Three security developers have taken the build we released to developers in October and have developed solutions available today that work with Windows 7 Beta."
While Microsoft wants to make its own antivirus software the best in the business, it’s also very concerned with supporting third party software makers. For one thing, Microsoft's upcoming free AV suite will be poorly suited for a large scale business environment, necessitating third parties. Secondly, consumers want variety, particularly when many have their own strong opinions about security.
Microsoft wants to reverse what happened with Windows Vista's release. When Vista was released, there was little antivirus software available, and what there was tended to be very poor. This in turn gave the OS perhaps an unduly bad reputation on security, when in reality the base of Vista was much more secure than its predecessor Windows XP. Some major AV companies like Symantec had no Vista product at launch, and Symantec for some time refused to use Vista.
Indeed, Microsoft does seem to be turning the corner on this issue, though, and convincing AV developers that Windows 7 is worthwhile. And Microsoft is definitely in need of it. While its expanded business base of the Xbox 360, internet offerings, Zune, peripherals, and more is relatively strong, its position of its core OS business is the weakest that it’s been in a long time. In November Windows market share, for the first time in years, dipped beneath 90 percent, according to Net Applications. Fortunately for Microsoft, the early buzz around Windows 7 seems enormous.