Microsoft Corp. is now offering free Symantec security software to small businesses for a limited time, through retailer PC Mall, following some grumbling in response to the free distribution of its own security software. 

In October, Microsoft began offering small businesses free copies of Microsoft Security Essentials for as many as 10 PCs. It has also started letting customers download the software from Windows Update. 

Panda Security and Trend Micro are among the companies that complained about Microsoft offering the security software free, with Trend Micro suggesting that the software giant could be violating competition laws in distributing it via Windows Update. 

Panda suggested that Microsoft offer free antivirus software from a variety of companies as a way to prevent a security software monoculture that could make it easier for viruses to spread quickly. 

It appears Microsoft is taking that suggestion, although not in partnership with Panda, and only through one retailer. 

From Nov. 1 until Dec. 31, businesses that buy a new copy of Windows 7 Professional from PC Mall will also get a copy of Symantec EndPoint Protection Small Business Edition free. The offer is good for up to 50 PCs. 

In September, Microsoft said that Security Essentials had been downloaded more than 31 million times. The free software, distributed by Microsoft, poses a competitive threat to other antivirus software developers.



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