By offering coverage for multiple PCs for much less than it would have cost using older products from market leaders Symantec and McAfee, Microsoft has forced those companies and others to drop their own pricing and changed consumer perceptions about the cost of AV tools, said Natalie Lambert, analyst for Forrester Research.
"The market is dramatically changing, and Microsoft is part of reason for that," Lambert said. "If you look at demand, consumers are not willing to pay for security software as they were in the past, they've found ways to get these programs for free, and Microsoft started some of that activity by driving prices down."
In terms of functionality, Lambert said that OneCare 2.0 appears to have pulled Microsoft closer to some of its rivals, although she does not believe that most consumers are ready to use all of the tools, such as centralized backup for multiple PCs.
Instead of buying off-the-shelf AV products as they may have done in years past, the analyst said that consumers are increasingly using programs bundled for free in their PCs or signing up for services offered by their ISPs, many of which are offered at no charge.
"Partnerships are more essential than ever before in this market," she said. "Winning this space will come down to who has the most and best partnerships in the future; consumers want full functionality, but they don't want to pay for it, and the vendors will need to get money from someplace, and it will be from the PC manufacturers and ISPs."