"[Microsoft] Update is a de facto extension of Windows, so to begin delivering software tied to updates has us concerned. ... We believe it should not be used this way," she added.
As always, the details of what's actually occurring can be a bit devilish. The MSE download option is triggered if Windows doesn't detect working security software on the PC. Microsoft then adds MSE to the optional section of Microsoft Update, a superset of the better-known Windows Update, or to Windows Update if it has been configured to also draw downloads from Microsoft Update.
Microsoft made a point to say that it was not offering Security Essentials via Window Update, but only through the Microsoft Update service, which also offers patches for new versions of non-operating-system software, notably Office and Windows Media Player.
Got that? Complicated as the process sounds, from the user point of view, it's rather transparent, and it wouldn't take a huge jump to move the optional download to Windows Update. Clearly, Microsoft is taking this a step at a time and waiting to gauge consumer -- and, more significantly, regulator -- reaction.
Symantec needs a wake-up call
I hope Microsoft's move is a wake-up call for Symantec. I'm picking on that company because it has used its dominant position in the market and the relative weakness of its major competitors as an excuse to ignore its customers. Most egregious is its customer service. Ever try to reach Symantec for tech support? Ever had the download of a paid upgrade or a license activation go sour and then tried to correct it? Yikes! What a nightmare -- a common one, too.
Then there's the never-ending feature bloat. Norton keeps getting bigger, using more disk space and other system resources. Now that I've been automatically upgraded to the latest version of Internet Security, I'm getting inane warnings about things I don't need to care about. For example, it keeps telling that some system files are using a lot of disk resources. So what? The files in question are part of Windows and I couldn't turn them off if I wanted to. To quote an acerbic editor of my youth: "Why are you telling me this?"
What's worse, the program insists on doing background scans whenever it feels like it, no matter that it's in the middle of my work day and a terrible time to slow my PC. Digging around for settings to change that is unconscionably difficult.
That said, Symantec has done a decent job of protecting my home network; I'm not quite ready to dump it. But if ever a company and its products needed more competition, it's Symantec. I never thought I'd say it, and maybe I'll regret it in the morning, but what the heck: "You go, Microsoft."
This article, "Why Microsoft's muscling of Symantec is good," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com.