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Microsoft OneCare

Earlier this week Microsoft announced plans for their upcoming subscription service intended to squash viruses, spyware and more. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m highly likely to stick with my Symantec subscription. Microsoft makes great products, but I can’t bring myself to spend money fixing holes they have in their operating system. When a car manufacturer has a serious product flaw you bring the car back in via a recall and they fix it for free. When software companies run into the same problem, they generally issue free patches/updates, which Microsoft also does, of course; but when they add to it with a fee-based subscription service, I’ve really got to say “no thanks”.

Microsoft is an easy target and I’m obviously not alone in this bias against the OneCare concept. David Pogue also recently commented on this one. He says much the same as what I’ve noted above, but also adds that there might be an anti-competition issue here as well. Perhaps, but I figure Microsoft’s program will just force Symantec to make their product that much better, which means I still come out ahead. Yes, I know OneCare could crush antivirus companies much like IE killed Netscape, Word killed WordPerfect, Excel killed 1-2-3, etc. I tend to believe this war is different since so many customers seem to question whether Microsoft (a) can really create a competitive product and (b) is worthy of a subscription payment when they really ought to just fix the problems for free.

What’s your opinion?


Michael Miller

Man, the anti-virus thing is the biggest scam going. Symantec and McAfee put the big scare on everyone to justify their continuing yearly subscriptions. You have to wonder just how real the virus threat really is, and how much of it is hype. (Kind of like the terrorism thing, if you really want to compare the tech world to the real world; the bark seems to be worse than the bite, and look who's doing all the barking.) And now Microsoft is getting into it, big surprise. One of the few guaranteed revenue streams still left in the tech industry -- what other programs do we "upgrade" yearly?

Blaine Moore

There are plenty of free or low cost alternatives. Most people could get by w/o a virus scanner if they practiced safe computing practices. Most people don't. I am happy with AVG free version, and if I do decide to change then I will probably get a professional version of their antivirus suite. AVG seems to be better than McAfee or Symantec (in my limited experience with their products) and is much cheaper.

Symantec is however my location of choice for information about new threats. I would not get a subscription from Microsoft; they have enough problems with their current software offerings that I don't want to risk their new ones.

John Neidhart

The solution is simple: buy a Mac. Yes, I have drunk the Kool-Aid, and my professional and personal "computing life" has never been better.

Todd Main

I think this over-simplifies the problem. When you buy a car, you generally don't have thousands of people trying to break-in, hijack or otherwise try to kill your car. You can lock the doors, install car alarms, install steering wheel locks, and even use bullet proof glass. If someone wants your car bad enough, they will find a way around all of these deterrents, which is exactly what is happening with computing. The fact that Windows is preferred platform for attacking is simply because of its broad penetration. Not because it is any easier to hack than other platforms. Mac, Windows, Linux - they are all equally vulnerable though. Apple and Linux community have a real problem responding to attacks and threats in a timely manner though - much like Microsoft about 4 years ago.

While I do agree that paying for this service is not always right, it appears that paying for it actually makes people use their computers more safely. Most users simply don't have the time or inclination to practice safe-computing, or even know what that is. For example, with all the debate on the usefulness of strong passwords about 5 years ago, the security experts today suggest using pass phrases instead. But how many of us actually know the value proposition of a pass phrase and, more importantly, have started using it instead of passwords? Paying for security raises the perceived value of the service.

Microsoft has a responsibility to make Windows an incredibly secure platform BEFORE it ships it. It has not done a great job of this in the past. It's definitely getting better these days, even at the expense of some usability and features. But OneCare is simply a value-add to respond to threats that didn't exist when the platform shipped. Symantec and McAfee and others will keep on kicking even after OneCare - they are focused companies with a large and loyal base of users. They simply do better value-add security than Microsoft and probably always will.

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