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Microsoft Patches Flaws, Pushes Forefront

Maybe it's a little funny to see both messages at the same time. On one hand, there've been numerous news stories the past two weeks about Microsoft patching several critical security flaws in Windows and now looking into potential vulnerabilities in Office. At the same time, the company just announced a new enterprise marketing campaign for Forefront. (In this case, Redmond is using the "geek" factor to try to sell businesses on its new Forefront suite.)

We've talked about this before in RCP magazine, and the issue lives on: It has to be hard for Microsoft partners to sell Redmond's security applications when the company's reputation for securing its own products is so...well, let's say "mixed." And beyond that, Forefront actually takes the mound a few runs down in this situation: Already, on the anti-virus side, Windows Live OneCare has made a less-than-stellar debut, even by Redmond's own admission. We're not questioning Forefront's capabilities on the enterprise side, just Microsoft's credibility in launching itself as a security vendor.

After all, the best way for Microsoft to build credibility as a provider of security applications would be for it to better secure (primarily) Windows and Office. That's something it has, in general, not really done that bad a job of doing lately, especially considering the large number of attacks that focus on those products -- both of which are easy targets with their 90-plus percent market share. But, of course, the better Microsoft secures its own stuff, the more businesses (and consumers, for that matter) will wonder why Redmond is charging them extra for security applications rather than just making security more of a built-in part of the deal with the Microsoft stack than it already is. It's a nasty little Catch-22 that partners are going to have to face when selling Forefront. But you probably know that by now.

So, on the other hand, think about this: Security makes a lot more sense as a business for Microsoft to get into than, say, search. It's directly tied to Microsoft's bread and butter, Windows and Office, and despite the presence of fierce competition in the form of (former partners, and now "coopetitors") Symantec, Trend Micro, McAfee and others, there is no "security Google" that has a mortal lock on mindshare in the market. There's revenue there for the taking -- if Microsoft can find a way to not trip over its own reputation and leave customers feeling as though they're paying protection money. We suppose that's why marketing folks get paid the big bucks.

What has been your experience with selling or using Forefront so far? What do you think of Microsoft's position in the security market? Tell me at lpender@rcpmag.com.

P.S.: Keep those e-mails rolling in. Friday is reader feedback day here at RCPU. And thanks to those who have already written about a variety of topics.

Posted by Lee Pender on April 12, 2007 at 11:54 AM