Each week vnunet.com asks a different expert to give their views on recent virus and security issues, with advice, warnings and information on the latest threats.
This week vnunet.com's Iain Thomson wonders how concerned antivirus software vendors should be at the prospect of Microsoft releasing its own antivirus product.
Microsoft has been dropping increasingly heavy hints that it will be bringing out an antivirus product very soon. But are the antivirus software vendors worried? Not in the slightest.
Ever since Microsoft bought Romanian antivirus company GeCAD the industry has known that it would be facing competition from Redmond. But firms have been preparing and are confident that they can beat Microsoft into being one of the also-rans of the antivirus world.
They have three key reasons for this belief.
First, Microsoft would be unlikely to bundle its antivirus package into Windows or Office because of fears of upsetting regulators again after the problems it faced with Internet Explorer and Media Player. This immediately levels the playing field for other vendors.
Second, antivirus software is a very different kettle of fish to Microsoft's current line of business. It's a service industry, requiring constant and speedy updates rather than an off-the-shelf 'install and forget' product.
It is also heavily dependent on the quality of laboratory staff. While the GeCAD team have a good reputation they are up against some of the giants of the industry.
Finally - and this is the kicker - for the virus-writing community the name Microsoft is like a red rag to a bull. Microsoft is targeted mostly because it is so ubiquitous, but also because there's a bitter core of folks out there who blame the company for all that's wrong with software today.
Any Microsoft product that comes out is targeted, and antivirus solutions will be no different. Trust is essential in the antivirus industry and if consumers see this package getting hit again and again they might plump for a less controversial choice.
But before I paint too rosy a picture there is also a big fear. Like any other technology gorilla, Microsoft has deep pockets and the ability to buy market share. Netscape learnt that you can't compete with a free browser, and it's this thought that could cause some sleepless nights ahead.
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