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Antispyware will remain free, Gates says

Microsoft's co-founder on Tuesday outlined the company's near-term plans for enterprise and consumer security offerings.

SAN FRANCISCO -- While there is no all-consuming software release to discuss this year like last year's Windows XP SP2, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates on Tuesday gave customers a roundup of security products and technologies they can expect

My philosophy is that no one knows better, or what files were changed, more than Microsoft.

Scott Rodgers, American Electric Power,

speaking of antispyware

in the near term and later this year.

Administrators and other customers will see the enterprise version of Microsoft's Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004 enterprise firewall, a more secure version of Internet Explorer for XP SP2, an update to a free security tool that checks for misconfigurations. Gates, who gave a keynote address Tuesday at the RSA Conference 2005, also said his company will offer its newly acquired antispyware software for free to all licensed customers.

The new browser, IE 7.0, goes into beta this summer and includes some new security defenses against phishing, spyware and other malware. "There are a lot of vulnerabilities in the browser; a lot of people are pointing fingers at [Microsoft] and switching to Firefox," said John Oltsik, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, Milford, Mass.

Gates called spyware something "we have to nip now," and with that, he said the company will make Windows AntiSpyware available for free. Microsoft acquired the technology when it bought Giant Company Software Inc. in December. Roughly 6 million customers have downloaded the antispyware beta, which became available in January.

Plans for a managed antispyware service

Scott Rodgers, principal architect at American Electric Power, a Columbus, Ohio, utility company, said he would rather have Microsoft fix any spyware problems on his desktops than another vendor. "My philosophy is that no one knows better, or what files were changed, more than Microsoft," Rodgers said.

For more information

Read some WUS FAQs from Microsoft


Get more background on the newest version of ISA Server  

For enterprise customers, Microsoft has plans for managed antispyware to be part of a paid product at some point, said Amy Roberts, a director in Microsoft's security business and technology unit. Roberts gave no timeframe.

Oltsik said that from Microsoft's perspective, it's vital to reinforce the importance of security to its customers. But giving away the antispyware protection "does send a chill up the [software] industry spine," he said. "They're not sure where the giving away and bundling ends and the selling product begins."

Gates also said a beta version of Microsoft Update will be available in mid-March. Microsoft Update will provide a single update service aimed at consumers, and will serve a range of Microsoft platforms. "We will have one update center, one scanner, totally consistent across all products, and a single database," Gates said.

WUS on track for mid-year release

Windows Update Services (WUS), the enterprise version of the same service, is currently in public beta and is expected to be available mid-year. At the same time, Microsoft will release version 2.0 of its Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer, a tool that scans for security misconfigurations.

Consumers access the database through Microsoft Update. Enterprises access the database using WUS or through Systems Management Server, Microsoft's desktop management software. "Each class of user has an interface and connection for them," Gates said.

As previously reported, Microsoft has also readied its firewall, the ISA Server 2004 Enterprise Edition, as well as the ISA Server 2004 management pack for Microsoft Operations Manager. The software was released to manufacturing this week and will be generally available in March. Pricing is $5,999 per processor.

Finally, Microsoft released SP1 for its Windows Rights Management Services. The company will also release a consumer antivirus product at the end of this year.

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