Today, Microsoft released Microsoft Security Essentials, a basic security suite that competes with such established anti-virus freebies as Avast Home Edition and AVG Free. BetaNews’s Joe Wilcox raises an interesting question about it:
The question: Should Microsoft offer free security software to consumers? Absolutely. There is no choice, and Microsoft would do customers better by fully integrating security software into Windows 7. But Microsoft has enough antitrust problems in Europe to make including antivirus risky business.
Security issues have bedeviled Windows users for around a decade and a half now. And while Microsoft bundles an anti-spyware utility with Windows and tried selling anti-virus software before deciding to give it away.
At first blush, Microsoft giving away Windows anti-virus feels a little like a car company offering airbags as a complementary but optional upgrade rather than simply making them standard. Ultimately, though, I think it’s the right way to go about things: If Windows had built-in anti-virus, it would likely slaughter the market for third-party anti-virus. And years of history tell us that Microsoft products tend to fester when they don’t have active, successful competition (and sometimes even when they do).
Then there’s the matter of anti-trust issues: Even if Microsoft wanted to build anti-virus into Windows, it might be very, very nervous about legal action by Symantec and McAfee and all the other companies who don’t wanted to get Netscaped.
I am, of course, leading up to a T-Poll here: