Trusting Microsoft

Microsoft just released its OneCare subscription security service that is supposed to help you keep your operating system — namely, Vista, whenever it actually ships — secure. Industry skeptics point out that OneCare is liable to put Symantec and McAfee out of business. As I pointed out last Feb. (“Vista Security is Just a Click Away“), while antispyware software will be bundled with Vista, antivirus software will not — Microsoft will be charging a premium for it.

Maybe you believe that Microsoft is probably the best software company to undertake the task of making Vista, the upcoming version of Windows, secure. Then again, maybe not — perhaps Symantec and McAfee might have a better shot. But maybe you believe Microsoft deserves to be taken seriously as a vendor of security, just like Symantec and McAfee, for Vista. Even if you believe Microsoft has a reputation for producing buggy software, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that Microsoft is better suited to tackle Vista security.

But Microsoft still has a credibility problem with OneCare. John Sheesley, TechProGuild Senior Editor, makes a very good point in “OneCare goes Live, but it doesn’t make me trust Microsoft any better” in TechRepublic:

In selling a subscription product that secures its systems, what incentive does Microsoft have to truly build security into their products to begin with? Sheer altruism? Ask Netscape, Lotus, IBM, Corel, Novell, Ashton-Tate, Borland, and Computer Associates how altruistic Microsoft is. The answer is there is no incentive. Microsoft gets to play lip-service to security with Vista and other products and then offer to take more of your money via OneCare for you to be truly secure.

Altruism aside, it is in Microsoft’s interests to portray itself as a company that cares about security. And yet, Microsoft seems to get away with behavior that demonstrates it has little interest in making its operating system actually secure. The company could have bundled anti-virus as well as anti-spyware tools and a firewall with Vista, but chose not to. There are real advantages to having anti-virus software bundled with the operating system. And yet, Microsoft has always been more interested in bundling other stuff, such as Windows Player, with little regard as to whether the bundling was most useful for the average consumer. As Sheesley points out in the above blog entry,

Why is it more important to bundle something like a media player which is completely irrelevant to an operating system, but not something like security?

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. The media and the bloggers can write all they want about Microsoft’s conflict of interest in offering a paid security service to keep its own software secure. Microsoft will continue to get away with it because its brand is just that powerful. That’s one thing you can trust.



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