For three years now, Microsoft has offered its own, free antivirus software—Security Essentials—as an alternative to third-party tools. The company is going one step further with Windows 8, building antivirus capabilities right into the operating system. What will that mean for commercial antivirus vendors?
The guys at Computerworld spoke to McAfee's Gary Davis to find out, and it sounds like Microsoft is actually playing nice with third-party AV solutions. If one of those is installed and operational, Windows 8's integrated virus protection will stay out of the way. On a pre-built PC with a pre-installed trial copy of, say, Norton AntiVirus or McAfee Internet Security, the built-in protection will only kick in when the trial runs out—or the user forgets to renew his subscription. Even then, users will get plenty of notice:
When the PC stops receiving AV signature updates -- most likely because the trial version has expired -- Windows 8 begins a 15-day countdown. During those 15 days, the Action Center, a desktop component that consolidates important system notifications, will warn the user that the AV software is expired, with information about how to renew coverage.
After the 15 days, the warning will expand the options offered users.
"At the end of 15 days the user has the option to renew what they have, install Windows Defender, select another option from the Microsoft Store or click on a 'remind me later' button, which starts a seven-day notice period," said Davis.
Davis suggests Microsoft's strategy has less to do with pleasing antivirus vendors than with accommodating PC makers, for whom the bundling of software trials and demos is an important revenue source. "A large portion of their profits on PCs come from revenue associated with AV," said Davis. Blackballing third-party antivirus solutions might have had unpleasant antitrust implications, too, but the Computerworld piece doesn't really get into that.
Personally, I've been a happy Security Essentials user for the past couple of years or so. If I upgrade to Windows 8, I think I'll probably stick with the default protection rather than using third-party tools. I've often found commercial AV software to be slow, cumbersome, and slightly paranoid, which doesn't encourage me to fork over money for a subscription—especially not if virus protection is available right in the operating system.