Trend Micro is Wrong to Cry Foul About Microsoft Security Essentials

Anti-malware maker Trend Micro has been complaining that Microsoft is delivering the free Security Essentials program via the Microsoft Update service, calling the move anti-competitive. Given that Microsoft makes no money from Security Essentials, though, this is good news for consumers, who can now more easily get a solid security program without paying a penny.

Microsoft recently began making Security Essentials available as a free download through the Microsoft Update service. Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports that security vendor Trend Micro claims this is anticompetitive behavior. He quotes Carol Carpenter, the general manager of the consumer and small business group at Trend Micro as saying:

"Commercializing Windows Update to distribute other software applications raises significant questions about unfair competition. Windows Update is a de facto extension of Windows, so to begin delivering software tied to updates has us concerned. Windows Update is not a choice for users, and we believe it should not be used this way."

First off, Carpenter isn't quite right about how Microsoft Security Essentials is being made available as a download. It's not being delivered via Windows Update, but via the Microsoft Update service, the same service that, in the words of Gregg Keizer "also offers patches for new versions of non-operating system software, notably Office and Windows Media Player."

The Microsoft Update service isn't the same thing as Windows Update, which delivers important patches and software for Windows itself. Microsoft Update was designed to deliver patches for optional software, not necessarily for Windows. So making Microsoft Security Essentials available via the Microsoft Update service is the right thing to do.

It's certainly true that most people don't know the difference between Microsoft Update and Windows Update, because Windows Vista and Windows 7, by default, use both services to look for updates and patches. So users see that updates or software are available, without differentiating between which service is delivering it to them.

The exact mechanism by which Security Essentials is delivered is mere quibbling and beside the point, though. The real point is this: It's a good thing for Microsoft to give people the option to download and use a free, solid and useful piece of security software that uses barely any memory. I've been using Microsoft Security Essentials since its first betas, and have always been impressed.

It's understandable that Trend Micro would not be happy about how Microsoft handles Security Essentials. But allowing people to download free security software that works well is a good thing, not a bad thing. And no one forces people to download Security Essentials; they have to choose to download it.

There's a simple way for Trend Micro to fight back against Microsoft --- build security software that is so far superior to Security Essentials that people are willing to pay for it.

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