30 September 2009

MS kills the consumer AV market

MS has just released Microsoft Security Essentials, which they call "high-quality, hassle-free antivirus protection for your home PC". It's free - 'free' as in beer, not 'free' as in speech.  And, surprisingly, it works: independent anti-virus testing organization AV-Test GMBH says that MSE detected every virus on the WildList of viruses, and detected no false positives: "All files were properly detected and treated by the product. That's good, as several other AV scanners are still not able to detect and kill all of these critters yet."

Microsoft already has an AV product in the business market, OneCare, but it hasn't really taken hold since it's not a free product, MS does not have a good security reputation, and AV vendors are already very entrenched in most organizations.  So there is not a huge threat to the AV vendors in the business sector.

There are a lot of free AV products already available  in the consumer market: Avira, AVG, Avast, BitDefender, etc.  These often don't reach mainstream consumers, though. Microsoft has a huge marketing engine and unbeatable distribution channels. If MS AV is free, works, well-known, and easy to get, then people will use it. 

MS has probably changed the market. Consumer AV will become free. Symantec, Trend, McAfee will keep making consumer AV but their enterprise business will just become even more important. Companies like Sophos that focus on business only will escape this one.