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Jaquith believes this improvement is the result of two factors. First, Microsoft is responding to “furious customers” who have been demanding more solid products, and doing a better job in its research and development, design reviews, and tracking its own flaws. Secondly, Jaquith says that hackers are “increasingly less interested in poking holes in desktop operating systems,” and instead are finding the flaws in the security products aimed at keeping them at bay.

“It’s very clear that the security vendors haven’t faced the same kind of scrutiny about their development practices as Microsoft,” Jaquith says.

Assuming Microsoft does shake off its poor image in security, the question arises: How will OneCare affect the rest of the PC security market? Not as drastically as one might expect, it appears – at least that’s what some industry players claim. 

Freund of Zone/Check Point is confident that his company is well-entrenched enough to ward off this new rival.

“We don’t think it’s going to be a big threat for the major existing vendors,” says Freund. But he does believe that Microsoft’s entry could inhibit the growth of smaller security firms, which he points out are often the leaders in innovation.

Others claim that Microsoft’s interest in providing more simplified security products confirms that such services are needed, and that it will attract more customers for everyone in the industry.

Risto Siilasmaa, president and CEO of Helsinki, Finland security firm F-Secure, put out a release right after Microsoft’s initial May announcement of OneCare, proclaiming that it was “good news” for them.

“They support the approach we have pioneered through the last five years in providing security as a live service,” Siilasmaa said in the release. “The additional exposure for the service approach will create new pull for such solutions.”

Even Freund admits that “Microsoft could do a good job of creating awareness” as it throws its considerable marketing power behind promoting OneCare. All this, he says, could help security firms in general reach the biggest open market in security: people who have no PC protection or support at all.

Jaquith at the Yankee Group is a bit less optimistic about the future of diversity in the security market, suggesting that Microsoft’s arrival could strike the death knell for “some of the less well capitalized anti-virus vendors,” and force others to work through original equipment manufacturers to stay alive. Despite Microsoft’s dominant desktop real estate, though, he doesn’t think they will crowd out all competitors.

“There’s room enough for everybody to play,” Jaquith says.

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