Today Microsoft will take a step toward competing with McAfee and Symantec in the enterprise security market by releasing a beta version of its Forefront Client Security desktop software.
The antivirus software has been in limited testing with several hundred Microsoft customers for months now, but as of today it will be widely available to testers who want an early look at it.
"This is the first time we'll be in widespread beta of Forefront Client Security," said Paul Bryan, director at Microsoft's security and access product group.
The software is now expected to ship by the end of June 2007, Bryan said. This target is six months later than the one Microsoft gave when it unveiled its client security roadmap a year ago.
The Client Security software has been under development for several years. It combines products that Microsoft acquired in two acquisitions: the purchase of antivirus vendor GeCAD in June 2003 and the December 2004 acquisition of Giant Company Software, which developed antispyware software.
Microsoft is not yet saying what it will charge for Client Security, but judging from its track record with consumer security software, pricing may be lower than for competitive products from Symantec and McAfee.
If it turns out to be a bargain, the cost may attract some customers, but Client Security will also appeal to companies that want to work with a single vendor for their software products, said Daniel Blum, senior vice president and research director with Burton Group. As for the product's capabilities, however, "there aren't any features of Client Security that the other vendors don't have," he said.
Microsoft expects two of its Forefront server products to emerge from beta in December, Bryan said. Forefront Security for Exchange Server will cost $12.60 (about £6.60) per user per year when licensed for 250 users. Forefront Security for SharePoint will cost $5.88 (£3.10) per user per year, he said.
Based on the Antigen software Microsoft picked up in its June 2005 acquisition of Sybari Software, these products can be used to plug a number of different antivirus scanning engines into Microsoft's server products in order to root out malicious or unwanted documents.
Also slated for release today are two application optimisers for its Intelligent Application Gateway remote access product: a SharePoint Portal Optimizer and a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Optimizer.