IDC: Microsoft on verge of security blitz

Microsoft Corp. is poised for an onslaught into the security software market that could displace many of the sector’s leading vendors, IDC analyst Chris Christiansen forecast Tuesday during a keynote address here at CIBC World Markets’ Enterprise and E-Business Software Conference.

Microsoft is backing its pledge to make security a top priority with significant research and development investment, and future releases of its major products will be “considerably cleaner,” said Christiansen, vice-president of IDC’s e-business infrastructure and Internet security software program, in Framingham, Mass. IDC is a unit of International Data Group Inc., the parent company of the IDG News Service.

Microsoft is increasing its share of the security software market by boosting sales of its security products, while taking sales away from security vendors by improving the security features of its non-security products, such as its operating systems and applications, Christiansen said.

“My warning is, anybody that is making considerable money off client-based software licenses has a real challenge ahead of them, because in a lot of cases there’s only going to be room for two or three Microsoft alternatives in these (security software) markets,” he said. “All jokes aside, they’re really serious. They’ve been serious about this for the last year.”

But a drive by Microsoft to boost its products’ security features could be good news for vendors willing to align with the company, Christiansen said.

“I think you’re going to see a kinder, gentler Microsoft in terms of partnering, especially with security vendors,” he said. Noting the audience’s skeptical reaction, he added, “I see people wagging their heads almost to the point of whiplash, but that’s my opinion.”

Overall spending on security software grew 18 per cent from 2000 to 2001, according to IDC, and is likely to continue growing in the next five years. But the sector’s growth won’t be driven by government spending, Christiansen said.

The U.S. government’s post-Sept. 11 boost in security spending remains focused on physical security: “Gates, guards, guns and dogs,” as Christiansen phrased it. IDC sees no signs of increased government spending on IT security products until at least 2004, and the much-touted coming convergence of physical and IT security remains three to four years away, he said.

When U.S. federal government purchases of IT security products do pick up, the beneficiaries won’t be software firms with new technology, but rather traditional government contractors including Raytheon Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co., Science Applications International Corp. and Computer Sciences Corp., Christiansen said.

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