Microsoft says it will not compete with security companies like Symantec or McAfee, despite its announced plans to discontinue sales of its subscription-based security service and instead offer free security software for users to download.
Microsoft's free download, which the company is calling "Morro," is designed to defend consumers' PCs against malware, such as viruses, spyware and Trojans.
Following Microsoft's announcement, Symantec and McAfee stocks took a nosedive Wednesday over concerns that the software giant would take a significant portion of their market share in the PC security space. Symantec shares fell 9.44 percent to $11.23, while McAfee's dropped 6.62 percent to $26.68. However, Microsoft also fell 6 percent at $18.45
Some security companies maintain that Microsoft's announcement is a sign of capitulation and an attempt to edge into a market dominated by established security vendors. McAfee said that OneCare, Microsoft's consumer online security solution, captured less than 2 percent of the market since it was released two years ago, according to Reuters.
Microsoft, however, contends that it is not undermining either Symantec's nor McAfee's marketshare due to the fact that its new free download only provides protection against malware -- a term referring mainly to online threats such as Trojans, spyware and other forms of malicious code.
Meanwhile, Symantec, McAfee and other large security companies offer comprehensive suites and high-end point products that include an array of security features such as encryption, data loss prevention, firewalls and parental controls.
Microsoft plans to discontinue sales of its Windows Live OneCare service on June 30, which cost $49.95 a year, covering a total of three PCs. The new online consumer product will be available as a free download in the second half of 2009.
Although the free download will be available to anyone around the world, McAfee said that Microsoft will be going after emerging markets, such as Brazil and other countries that require increased IT security infrastructure but whose residents often lack financial resources to buy and install security software.
"This is really focused on the 50 to 60 percent (of PC users) who don't have, or won't pay for, antivirus protection, antimalware protection," said Amy Barzdukas, senior director of product management for Microsoft's Online Services and Windows Division, in a Reuters interview.
Over the past few years, Microsoft has consistently achieved a larger foothold in the PC security space, raising tensions with competitors as it continued to challenge security giants such as Symantec and McAfee.
In 2006 and 2007, Symantec and McAfee raised concerns that Microsoft had designed its Windows Vista operating system to deny them access to the heart of the operating system, which they claimed was necessary in order to protect Vista users from malicious threats.