A new beta of Microsoft’s free anti-virus product, Microsoft Security Essentials has appeared just as Panda Anti-Virus looks set to complain to the EU about Microsoft offering the package to Windows users who have no or out of date anti-virus protection as an optional update.
The new beta reportedly adds a new improved scanning engine to what was already an excellent product. There’s Windows firewall integration (though is just really allows you to switch the firewall on and off), integration with Internet Explorer and network inspection functionality.
The release, reported by blogger Mary-Jo Foley, is an important step-forward for MSE which in its current form is primarily in competition with the free version of AVG.
The release has “improvements to the quality of the product including performance enhancements as well as some user interface modifications.” The product team has removed the protection against web threats feature in the Security Essentials Beta “as it was causing PC performance issues.”
The fact that Microsoft has any anti-virus package at all though is of great concern to anti-virus vendors who have long enjoyed fleecing charging users with annual subscriptions. The simple fact remains though that Windows needs anti-virus protection and it’s frankly daft that it doesn’t have something like MSE bundled.
Some vendors have called for a ballot screen for anti-virus software such as users in the EU have for their web browser though many people have called this idea stupid. This commentator isn’t so sure. The ballot screen has genuinely provided a choice for people who may never have heard of anything other than Internet Explorer and it’s really not annoying in any way shape or form. A wider roll-out of ballot screens for web browsers and anti-virus software with Windows could turn out to be a very wise move by Microsoft.
We’ll have to wait to see how this turns out, and if it goes to the EU we’ll still be talking about this in 2013.