Microsoft Offers Free Symantec Antivirus to Businesses

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft's recent decision to offer its free Security Essentials software through Windows Update has caused a major uproar amongst antivirus developers. In what appears to be an effort to make at least one major security firm happy, Microsoft has partnered up with Symantec to offer that company's software at no charge, too.

Retailer PC Mall is also a part of the deal, which involves offering small businesses the Symantec EndPoint Protection Small Edition software package when they buy a new copy of Microsoft's operating system (OS), Windows 7. The offer will be available until the last day of calendar 2010.

Windows Update Tactic Deemed Anti-Competitive by Competition

It's believed the deal is part of an effort by Microsoft to calm protests over its method of offering Security Essentials. Back in October, the company said it would allow businesses to install the free antivirus software on up to ten PCs. At the same time, it has been offering Security Essentials through Windows Update. (Source:

The most vocal protests against that strategy came from security firm Trend Micro, which said that Windows Update was essentially an extension of Windows, and because Microsoft did not allow consumers choice of a variety of security packages, the offer was anti-competitive.

Another antivirus company, Panda Research, has echoed these complaints, saying that the Windows update situation could create a scenario where hackers face overcoming the obstacles presented by just a single antivirus program -- an easy task for them, no doubt.

Rivals Say Security Essentials Doesn't Provide Ample Protection

As expected, creators of not-so-free antivirus programs say the no-charge Security Essentials provides paltry levels of protection by comparison to their products. In addition, Panda Research estimates that about 40 per cent of global systems use pirated software -- a relevant statistic because Security Essentials is only offered to users of legitimate copies of Windows. (Source:

It's not clear exactly how or why these people should be offered protection, but Panda Research seems to believe that even pirated systems need resilient antivirus software so as to prevent the spread of viruses or malware.

It's unclear if the Symantec deal is the first or final step by Microsoft in trying to allay these fears. It is, after all, just one of many antivirus software companies.

Will we soon see a "security software ballot" similar to the "browser ballot" employed in Europe earlier this year? Perhaps -- but, in the meantime, Microsoft has reported the downloading of its Security Essentials an estimated 31 million times.

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