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You really can’t begrudge Microsoft this move, unless you’re an anti-virus or anti-spyware vendor. They absolutely had to release their own anti-virus and anti-spyware tools in order to defend their customers’ investments in Windows platforms and apps. Whether or not Microsoft has set its sights on eating Symantec et al.’s lunches is a secondary issue. The market for third-party anti-malware tools will operate under a substantial competitive shadow from now on. As a Windows user, I’m happy to get this functionality for free, and I know many other users who probably feel the same way. I don’t want Microsoft to crash this market, but I don’t want malware to crash my Microsoft Windows platforms. And I don’t think I should have to pay for basic platform protection against malware. So there you have it.
Everything in this industry is slipping down the slope to free ("Closer to Free"--wasn't that a hit for Del Amitri?). Hitting closer to home, I see the IT research and analysis (R&A) industry continuing to consolidate and shrink as IT professionals get addicted to free reports from many sources. Whether or not those reports are vendor-sponsored/slanted/biased/manipulative is a secondary issue for many tech professionals. There's a lot of good solid factual and educational material in many of those free reports, and most of us know how to filter out the marketing BS chaff from the informative wheat.
Analysts will still make money from their insights. But that money will come less and less from R&A subscription licenses and more and more from consulting, educational seminars, and forums/conferences--in other words, from "events" of all sorts where the analyst "performs live." And from vendor-sponsored or vendor-reprinted whitepapers and presentations. And from what pittances you make from authoring trade-press articles and tech/business books.
It's getting to the point where IT R&A reports are a dime a dozen. Part of the noise, not the signal.