Beta of enterprise desktop security suite promised later this year

Microsoft plans to release a full suite of security products for enterprise desktops, dubbed Microsoft Client Protection, chief executive Steve Ballmer said on Thursday at an event in Munich.

The forthcoming security product is aimed at desktops, laptops and servers and will protect against spyware, rootkits, viruses and other traditional attacks.

It allows IT managers to centrally control and manage the software through existing Microsoft products, including Active Directory and the Windows Server Updates Services patch management tool.

"With the continuing onslaught of malware, viruses, phishing attacks and other kinds of internet fraud, creating a more secure computing environment requires a concerted, long-term effort on the part of all technology companies, as well as customers and governments," said Ballmer.

A beta is scheduled for later this year. Microsoft did not provide a projected release date for the final product nor pricing information.

Microsoft Client Protection will include Microsoft AntiSpyware, a beta of which was released last January. Bill Gates kicked off development of the spyware removal tool last year after his personal computer became infected.

The company has said that it was developing a suite of security products to compete with offerings from current leading security providers such as Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro.

"These products are going to be extremely threatening to the existing threat management community," said Andrew Braunberg, senior analyst for information security at Current Analysis.

"The existing vendors have made a very good living for the past few years. The key question is going to be whether Microsoft is going to undercut their pricing."

Microsoft has already announced plans to launch a consumer security product, dubbed OneCare, which is scheduled for release by the end of the year.

The vendor also said it would release a dedicated enterprise security product for the Exchange messaging server. Microsoft Antigen will filter viruses and spam and is based on software acquired earlier this year through the purchase of Sybari Software. A beta of the product will be released in the first half of 2006.

Finally, Microsoft announced the creation of the SecureIT Alliance, which aims to enable third-party security providers to more closely integrate their products with Windows.

Founding members of the alliance include Citrix Systems, Computer Associates, F-Secure, McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro and VeriSign.

Microsoft made security a top priority three years ago when it launched its Trustworthy Computing initiative. The focus on security has led to the release of Service Pack 2 for Windows XP and the inclusion of a firewall with Windows.

Braunberg said he was pleasantly surprised by the speed at which Microsoft has announced the security products.

The vendor might still be outpaced by pure-play security vendors, but "is moving as fast as we could reasonably expect. This is a good sign from Microsoft," the analyst told