Archive for August 23rd, 2004

Why Microsoft should not build antivirus protection into Windows

Monday, August 23rd, 2004

Most people in the technology field don’t realize how truly awful it is out there with regards to viruses and spyware. I’ve been traveling around the country promoting my book “Always Use Protection: A Teen’s Guide to Safe Computing,” and the stories I’ve heard are horrific. People are truly learning to hate their computers.
A recent blog in the Scobleizer is but a small example, but one of the comments that suggested Microsoft build in anti-virus capability to Windows is way off.
Having Microsoft build anti-virus protection into Windows would be a disaster.
Let’s ignore the antitrust issues. Let’s even ignore the question of whether Microsoft can be trusted to build a good antivirus product.
Right now there are a decent number of antivirus vendors. The competition among them is helping improve the overall protection of antivirus products. More important, the variety makes it very difficult for a virus/worm to target all of them (remember – viruses love to disable antivirus programs).
What would happen if Microsoft included antivirus protection in Windows?
It would immediately suck a huge amount of the revenue that antivirus companies use to survive and use to develop their products. Even if vendors had a better product, the vast majority of people would just stick with the built in antivirus program. The Microsoft antivirus program would quickly gain a dominant market share. We’ve seen that story before.
Not only would this reduce the competition that drives improvement in antivirus programs, it would create a huge juicy target for viruses. Just as most viruses now target Internet Explorer, most would target the built-in protection. Computer security is far too important to take a chance on this. Microsoft took the right approach with XP SP2, checking to see if an antivirus program is present. They should continue with this approach.

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