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Microsoft Buys Antivirus Vendor

Microsoft on Tuesday announced that it has bought the intellectual property and technology assets of a small Romanian antivirus vendor, but Microsoft left its intentions very fuzzy for how extensively it intends to get involved in the antivirus market.

Terms of the deal to purchase the assets of Bucharest-based GeCAD Software Srl., an 11-year-old company, weren't disclosed.

Corporate vice president Mike Nash, of the Microsoft security business unit, positioned Microsoft's move as a response to customer demands for Microsoft to take more responsibility for protecting its software from virus and worm threats. Nash also moved to reassure Microsoft's powerful antivirus partners, including Symantec, Network Associates, Trend Micro, Computer Associates, Sybari, GFI, Sophos and others, that Redmond wouldn't be encroaching on their space.

"This acquisition will help us and our partner antivirus providers further mitigate risks from these threats," Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the Security Business Unit at Microsoft, said in a statement. Nash also reportedly discussed the acquisition with antivirus vendors before the Tuesday announcement.

The company has been wading further into antivirus technologies lately. In April, Microsoft announced the Windows File System Filter Manager Architecture, which is supposed to simplify the development process for antivirus software providers and improve system reliability. In May, Microsoft launched the Virus Information Alliance with several antivirus vendors. The company also launched a new virus information site at www.microsoft.com/security/antivirus/. Meanwhile, Exchange Server 2003 includes a number of programmatic hooks to encourage antivirus vendors to branch out into spam blocking.

Microsoft is staying quiet about its exact plans. A white paper published on Microsoft's Web site on Tuesday stated, "Details of the Microsoft antivirus solution, including any product plans, pricing, and a timeline for delivery, are not yet available. Microsoft strongly recommends that customers continue to use antivirus solutions from industry partners and keep their virus signatures updated."

Microsoft says the GeCAD acquisition was partly a way to buy antivirus talent that will help it design software that is better protected against viral threats. But the acquisition is also openly about an as-yet-undefined plan to make antivirus software more ubiquitous, which could be threatening to existing vendors because it implies that antivirus signatures could possibly become freely distributed as part of Windows or Office. "Work will be done to help increase today's limited percentage of customers that are protected with updated antivirus signatures, and attention also will be given to developing next-generation solutions for evolving threat models," Microsoft wrote in a statement.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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