Microsoft Joins Antispyware Fray

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant intends to buy Giant Company Software, maker of the AntiSpyware product, for undisclosed terms. Under the pact, it will acquire both technology and personnel.

Microsoft said it plans to release within the next month a beta version of an antispyware offering that will allow Windows users to locate spyware and other threats and remove them from their PCs. The beta will run on Windows 2000, Windows XP and the security-focused Windows XP Service Pack 2.

The spyware deal comes as no surprise. In April, Microsoft security executives said publicly that the company was considering adding spyware to Windows. Last year, Microsoft acquired the assets of a Romanian antivirus software vendor, GeCAD, and committed to releasing antivirus products and services. Microsoft has not yet released a timetable for the spyware or antivirus products.

"I would love to see Microsoft get involved in the spyware and [antivirus] business," said Michael Cocanower, president of systems integrator ITSynergy, Phoenix. "I think it would be great to have the products integrated. I also think it would be great to have the expertise of Microsoft involved in creating a package to fight these things. [Antivirus] and spyware represent two packages that require a lot more ongoing, sustained engineering efforts than most of their traditional packages. Are they prepared to make the necessary investments?"

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One Wall Street analyst said security is a fundamental service of the operating system that Microsoft cannot leave to ISVs.

"They have to do something on their own," said Rick Sherlund, an analyst at New York investment firm Goldman Sachs. "If there are problems with Windows, it's Microsoft's problem. If lower-end consumers won't buy Symantec, Microsoft needs to make sure they're covered and be careful about how they bundle it in the OS."