Microsoft’s brush with Antivirus has been around for some time. First one that came out was OneCare, which was built on a commercial model similar to the many AV products out there. Onecare was not that successful and it was always dogged by controversy.
Now we have a new AV from MS, but this time it is free. More than create a product, I think MS is more concerned with fighting the virus prone image that Apple has been very successfully using in its Ad campaigns. In most developing countries, it is very difficult for people to buy AV software and this has led to the creation of a huge base of easily infectable machines avbl to hacker and virus writers.
There are free AV software out there for home use, but most lay users do not know of them. So I think the main thought process behind this product is to make sure that all Windows machines have atleast the minimum AV protection. So what happens to the paid AV business model? Well I am not sure. It all depends on how they are able to innovate and offer better and faster performance. Based on my experience with some of the AV products from the more well know vendors, I wouldn't touch most of those due to their bloated nature.
SE has gone into public beta yesterday and is avbl only to US, Japan, China and Brazil for now (There are reports that some people were able to download it from other countries, but basically it depends on how your ISP’s DHCP is setup etc I suppose). It is avbl at Connect, but you can get access to it from http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/default.aspx. MS says it is going to restrict download to the first 75K during this phase. I understand China and Brazil (they have the biggest number of unprotected and infected PCs), but why is India missing? I would expect a large number of unprotected machines exists in India too??
I was surprised by the very small downloadable and also the quick and easy install. The first data update was quite slow, but overall the application seems to be very light and fast. From what I see, it is built on the Windows Defender base and it actually switches off Windows Defender when it installs. Surprisingly, it reports itself as the Microsoft AntiMalware in the security center and not as AntiVirus or as Security Essentials. Is this to make sure than the AV partners do not raise too much dust??
The interface itself is very simple and has very limited options. It seems designed for lay users and that I think is a good thing for an antivirus.