Windows anti-spyware to come free of charge
SAN FRANCISCO--Ending speculation about whether it was shifting to a paid model, Microsoft said on Tuesday it will provide customers with its new anti-spyware software for free.
The pledge, made by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates during his keynote speech kicking off the RSA Conference 2005 here, comes after the company had been testing its anti-spyware beta--technology that it acquired when it bought security software maker it Giant Software.
"Just as spyware is something that we have to nip down today, we have decided that all licensed Windows users should have that protection at no charge," Gates said.
The initiative is part of Microsoft's efforts to strengthen security for home and business users of its Windows desktop software. Consumers are not always aware of the dangers of such threats as spyware, viruses and 'phishing.' A study published last October found that more than 80 percent of consumers had been infected by spyware.
While Microsoft turned its attention to general software security three years ago with its Trustworthy Computing Initiative, the spotlight on consumers began a year and a half ago, after the MSBlast worm infected millions of home PCs. The worm taunted Microsoft's founder with the message: "Billy gates why do you make this possible? Stop making money and fix your software!"
Microsoft introduced the beta, or test version, of its Windows AntiSpyware application last month. The program is designed to protect Windows PCs from spyware--software that is installed on computers without their owners' knowledge. Typically, spyware generates pop-up ads or keeps track of people's Web surfing.
During his speech, Gates also said that Microsoft will release a new, more secure version of its Internet Explorer browser, which will launch separately and in advance of the next version of Window. IE 7.0 will use security features available in Microsoft's most recent security update to its operating system, Windows XP Service Pack 2, he said.
The company also plans to bring together its various update services and offer a single place to get security updates for each class of customer. The software giant will centralize Windows, Office and application updates through a consumer service called AutoUpdate, Gates said.
Small and midsize businesses that have many PCs to manage and that want some control will be offered another service, dubbed Windows Update Service, he added. Large companies can exercise more control using Software Management Server, also known as SMS.
Customers last got a major security upgrade from Microsoft in August, when the company launched Windows XP Service Pack 2, aimed at locking down computers. The operating system revamp took more than nine months to complete and added a central security interface, a better firewall and several under-the-hood improvements to lock down Windows PCs.
The software giant has recently been making buys to bolster its security line-up. In December, Microsoft announced it would buy Giant Software, a maker of desktop anti-spyware tools. Last week, the software giant announced it planned to buy enterprise security software maker Sybari, a business-focused move.