Microsoft 'PC Care' Service Will Influence Antivirus Market

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Summary

Windows OneCare will offer subscribers PC security, maintenance and backup services. This bundling is well-matched to consumer needs, but Microsoft's position in the software market warrants further security assurances.

News Analysis

Event

On 13 May 2005, Microsoft announced beta plans for Windows OneCare, a subscription-based bundle of "PC health" services, including:

  • Security services, such as antivirus (AV), anti-spyware and firewall protection

  • Automated maintenance and performance tuning

  • Backup-and-restore capabilities

  • Support via phone, instant messaging and e-mail

Microsoft is distributing a test version to its employees now and will launch a beta version to the public later in 2005.

Analysis

This announcement reflects the trend of more providers adding new subscription-based, network-delivered services. Many Internet service providers now offer AV subscription services, and OneCare may influence AV vendors to add more managed services to their offerings. Microsoft's move also furthers the trend of anti-spyware being bundled with AV, rather than priced separately — an approach Gartner recommends.

Microsoft offered no pricing or availability information for the commercial release, but we expect it to ship in 4Q05 at a subscription rate of less than $20 per machine per year (0.7 probability). We also expect Microsoft to announce an enterprise-capable service by year-end 2005 (0.7 probability) and to deliver it in 2006 (0.8 probability).

Strengths:

  • OneCare offers a single-touch service that addresses the three primary obstacles to consumer use of desktop security — inconvenience, complexity and cost.

  • Microsoft is one of the few vendors with the resources to offer consumers unlimited free phone support.

 

Challenges:

  • Microsoft's AV labs are unproven, and the vendor must compete with best-in-class AV response times and client software stability or face rejection.

  • OneCare requires an initial client download, and supports only local-media backup — not remote backup over the Internet or a home network.

  • Microsoft will need to offer guarantees regarding protection from viruses and customer service levels. Many AV vendors have resisted offering service-level agreements on virus infections and signature turnaround times. However, because Microsoft makes the software targeted by most viruses and worms, Gartner believes the company needs to go further if it expects to charge for a service that essentially protects its other products.

 

Recommendations

  • Midsize businesses: Use Microsoft’s expected entry into the enterprise AV market to negotiate better pricing with incumbent AV providers. But don't expect the enterprise-class product, once released, to be a viable enterprise choice until year-end 2007.

  • All users: Use the OneCare announcement and other examples of AV/anti-spyware bundling to influence your incumbent provider to offer free anti-spyware with its AV service, if it does not do so already.

Analytical Sources: Neil MacDonald, Arabella Hallawell and John Pescatore

Recommended Reading and Related Research

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© 2005 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartners research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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