Microsoft has unveiled a security strategy and product roadmap to provide anti-virus and security software to rival Symantec, McAfee, Sophos, Computer Associates and Trend Micro.
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Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer outlined a new product, Microsoft Client Protection, which marks the company's debut in desktop security suites; with anti-virus and anti-spam security software also coming soon.
The Microsoft Client Protection package is designed to protect business desktops, laptops and file servers from malware threats such as spyware and hacking toolkits, as well as viruses and other attacks, said Microsoft.
Microsoft Client Protection is currently in development. The company plans to make an early beta of the product available to selected customers later this year. Pricing and licensing will be announced at a later date.
The company said the product had an integrated management console and would provide users with detailed reports on hacking and IT security activity. This should give businesses a way to assess the severity of risks.
"This approach enables businesses to spend less time dealing with malicious software threats and more time managing other IT needs that help improve the bottom line," said Microsoft.
Microsoft Client Protection will also integrate with Active Directory and software distribution systems to reduce the time it takes to deploy security updates and patches.
Microsoft also plans to release Microsoft Antigen anti-virus and anti-spam security software for messaging and collaboration servers, based on technology from recently acquired Sybari Software. Microsoft will add its own anti-virus scanning engine to the product. Antigen for Exchange is scheduled to be available in beta in the first half of 2006.
In spite of its intention to offer "a single solution" for desktop security, Jay Heiser, research vice-president at analyst firm Gartner, said Microsoft was unlikely to produce a strong security suite.
He said, "Microsoft is trying to change the perception of its products and the security implications, but it does not yet have anything substantive that it did not have before." Heiser urged users to put off any buying decision until Microsoft releases version two of Client Protection.