On November 1st, Microsoft took an unusual move throughout the USA. They started offering their Microsoft Security Essentials software when their automatic Windows update ran.
This move has computer security companies Trend Micro and Panda complaining. These two companies offer competing anti-virus software suites, which they seem to feel will suffer as a result of this move.
Microsoft uses a facility called the ‘action center’ to monitor certain aspects of your computer. One of those is whether or not you have any anti-virus software running. If you don’t, the action center will now offer you their own anti-virus software when your regular Windows update runs.
The reason that they claim they are doing this, is that despite the fact that there are so many free anti-virus software suites available today, many people still choose to take the risk and go without.
These people, for whatever reason, have nothing installed and as a result are likely to quickly become infected with viruses and other malware.
Once infected they may become part of a botnet-a network of infected computers that work together in order to commit cyber crimes, though their owners know nothing of what they are doing.
They are also likely to pass on their viruses to others, to spread the infections through email, instant messaging and other methods so that they can then steal the personal information of other people.
When taking this into consideration it could be argued that this latest move is for the greater good. It will encourage people who have yet to install anti-virus software just because they haven’t thought about it yet to get protected. It will also help people to find reliable and trustworthy software, if they are otherwise unsure where or how to get it.
However, some are arguing that it goes against the competition rulings that have been issued in previous cases against Microsoft.
In the past the courts in various countries have ruled that by bundling its media player, and web browser with its operating systems, it was forming an unfair monopoly in the market. It was ordered to cease bundling and offer them separately instead.
The fact that they are merely offering it as a suggested download though, instead of automatically downloading and installing it is likely to count in their favor-making it seem as though they are simply offering help rather than forcing their software on people.
Unfortunately, because they are offering this software through the Windows update service, many people are uncomfortable. The update service is compulsory, and so no matter whether you want it, you will be offered the software if you don’t have something running.
This might seem like a sensible move, but the other side of it is new installations. When an operating system is first installed on a computer it won’t have anti-virus protection. The user must then go and select it.
If they are offered it automatically when bringing their operating system up to date, they may take the easy route rather than finding another product.
Whether this leads to further court action against Microsoft will depend in part upon whether any other company chooses to complain.