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On the road to this new product, Microsoft acquired Giant Software Co., an anti-spyware firm, on Dec. 17, 2004.
This company was relatively unknown in the industry but packed a huge punch in the anti-spyware market. Shortly thereafter, Microsoft made some changes to the product and called it Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta 1. Later Microsoft announced that it would provide Microsoft AntiSpyware to customers for free when the final version is ready to be released. Many people applauded this PR move and opened their arms a little to Microsoft; steps like these are ideal for Microsoft to gain back the trust of the public when it comes to security.
In order to take advantage of AntiSpyware, you must be running Windows XP SP2. Microsoft sees this new product as an additional benefit of using this more secure platform. And this AntiSpyware/XP SP2 combination also fits nicely within their ''Trustworthy Computing'' initiative (which you may remember as their drive over the last several years to improve the security within their products).
When I first heard about this acquisition, I asked myself, ''Why would Microsoft acquire an antispyware company?'' If you have been following Microsoft's acquisitions recently, you will know they also have acquired Sybari Software, makers of anti-virus, anti-spam and content-filtering technology, as well as anti-virus vendor GeCAD Software. To me, it is obvious that acquiring Giant Software and repackaging their product as Microsoft AntiSpyware is the beginning of Microsoft's move into the security arena, with Sybari and GeCAD technologies supporting this move.
But why are they doing this?
Windows OneCare is your answer.
Microsoft is currently hard at work on a comprehensive PC health service for consumers and small businesses. This is designed to help protect and maintain your PC (according to Microsoft.com). Some of the features included with Windows OneCare are:
If you own a small business or do not have the time to stay up on your PC's security, and you want to keep your computer safe and running at optimum capacity, then Windows OneCare is designed for you. It is geared to meet your security and performance needs without you having to do anything more than subscribe.
Ryan Hamlin, general manager of the Technology Care and Safety Group at Microsoft, states that, ''Windows OneCare is the next major advance in our ongoing efforts to help keep consumers' Windows-based PCs 'healthy' in a way that's simple and as worry-free as possible for them.'' He goes on to say, ''We're designing the service so it will continually update and evolve over time, helping to ensure that our customers will have the most complete and effective protection and safety services in place every time they turn on their PC.''
This is a brilliant move on the part of Microsoft.
With this product, they can address all of the major security concerns of the typical consumer and small business operator. In the good old days, security was not a priority for Microsoft. But fast forward to today and it is very obvious that Microsoft is cleaning up its image. They have been dedicated to security for some time now and you can see the payoff in a more secure Windows product.
The second question I asked myself was, ''Will the public buy this product or subscription service from Microsoft?'' I believe many will. For people who have been buying Microsoft products for years, it is just easier to add security to any existing contracts. If you are already purchasing 75 percent to 80 percent of Microsoft products, it makes sense to let the company that develops the products secure them.
And yet OneCare is much more than just an automatic security fix. Many consumers are not fully comfortable with defragging, disc cleanup, and file repair. Backup and restore are actions they'd rather not do. And they might not know how to check the overall health of their system. Or maybe they know all of these things but don't want to do any of it. OneCare offers to take care of security and performance for you. How convenient.
The cynics would argue that it is ridiculous for Microsoft to have a security product. In fact, they might even say that the more holes there are in Microsoft products, the more market share there will be for OneCare. They are making money off of security holes in their own products.
Regardless of your position on this new service, you can expect public beta versions of Windows OneCare to appear later this year. Microsoft is steamrolling its way into the security arena whether you like it or not.
Can we trust Microsoft to secure our products and our future? Only time will tell, but I am very excited about the outcome.
Steven Warren is an IT consultant for the Ultimate Software Group and a freelance technical writer. He has a forthcoming 'how-to' book on VMware Workstation, and holds the following certifications: MCDBA, MCSE, MCSA, CCA, CIW-SA, CIW-MA, Network+, and i-Net+.