June 11, 2009

Free Anti-Virus Software To Be Introduced By Microsoft

Free anti-virus products by makers like Symantec Corp and McAfee Inc are facing new competition as Microsoft Corp is set to introduce a similar new product, Reuters reported. 

A spokesman for the world's largest software maker said it is running a preliminary version of the product with its own employees first.  However, he added, Microsoft would make a trial version, or product beta, available on its website, but did not offer an exact date. 

The New York Stock exchange reports indicated that Symantec shares dropped 0.5 percent on Nasdaq and McAfee dropped 1.3 percent, while Microsoft was up 2.1 percent.  The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.47 percent. 

Because investors fear the free service, code-named Morro, could jeopardize sales of products from Symantec and McAfee, it is being closely observed.  The companies generate billions of dollars of revenue each year protecting Windows PCs from invasions by hackers. 

Though the near-term impact was insignificant, "It's a long-term competitive threat," said analyst Daniel Ives with FBR Capital Markets. 

Morro will provide fundamental features for combating a wide variety of viruses, Microsoft said, which would quite possibly make it similar to low-end consumer products made by Symantec and McAfee that can be purchased at about $40 per year. 

Security suites that contain features including encryption, firewalls, password protection, parental controls and data backup have traditionally been their best-selling products. 

Live OneCare was Microsoft's first comparable product in this market, launched three years ago.  Consumers did not embrace the product, and it was deemed a commercial disaster.  In November, Microsoft plans to end that product suite, and introduce the free Morro service by the end of 2009.

Analysts said they are anxiously awaiting results of Morro's beta to see precisely how its features compare to similar competitor products. 

Microsoft promises its product will offer protection from many types of malicious software like viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans.

Symantec and McAfee officials have said Morro poses no threat.

"Microsoft's free product is basically a stripped down version of the OneCare product Microsoft pulled from the shelves," said Symantec Consumer division president Janice Chaffin. "A full Internet security suite is what consumers require today to stay fully protected."

McAfee is already experiencing significant increases despite competition from existing free anti-virus products that are on the market, said Joris Evers, a spokesman for the No. 2 security software maker.

"On a level playing field, we are confident in our ability to compete with anyone who might enter the marketplace," he said.

A spokeswoman for the No. 3 leading security software maker, Trend Micro Inc, declined to comment. 


On the Net: