Finally Microsoft Ships Windows Defender

Almost two years after it purchased GIANT Company Software for its best of breed antispyware solution, Microsoft has shipped its own nonbeta version of the product. Now called Windows Defender, the free add-on protects Windows XP users against spyware and other malicious software. A version of Defender will be included in Windows Vista as well.

Microsoft purchased GIANT Company Software in December 2004 shortly after shipping XP Service Pack 2 SP2 which included pervasive security features. At the time, Microsoft said its version of the GIANT tools, then called Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware, would complement the features in XP SP2.

Over time, Microsoft renamed Windows AntiSpyware to Windows Defender, added the application to Vista, and built connections between Defender and related products, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer IE 7.0 which was released last week and Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft's subscription based PC health solution.

Windows Defender is available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions and supports Windows Server 2003 SP1, XP, SP2 and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. 

Today, Mozilla will officially unveil Firefox 2.0, the latest version of its Web browser, and increasingly a credible challenger to Microsoft's Internet Explorer IE. Unfortunately, some of Firefox's more trend setting features have been delayed to a later release and the new release suffers as a result. What's left is pretty unimpressive.

Disclaimer: I've been a Firefox user and advocate for a long time, so long in fact that I used the browser when it was still called by its Phoenix code name. Although I'll likely provide a longer review on the SuperSite for Windows in the days ahead I think it's relevant to supply a few first impressions here.

I don't like it. The new Firefox visual refresh replaces the previously clean Firefox UI with muddy and vague looking icons. So one of the first things I did was download a theme that returned the old Firefox 1.5 look and feel. The built-in phishing protection is truly third rate. There are two antiphishing options: Mozilla's weak blacklist based protection (yes, seriously) and Google's antiphishing technology which is both poorly rated and a privacy nightmare. The new Options dialog box is a miasma of choices some of which are hidden in embedded tab controls. It's ugly, confusing, and illogical.

Firefox doesn't offer many truly neat features. It does include improved tabbed browsing functionality and puts a Close Tab button on each tab. The browser features inline spell checking handy for blogging and a session restore feature that helps users recover from browser or system crashes. The new Add-ons Manager is simple and effective. But honestly, that's about it.

Firefox 2.0 is free but it's a woefully minor improvement over Firefox 1.5 that suffers from various incompatibility problems, especially with themes and other add-ons. I wouldn't recommend this new version to be honest. I'll be sticking with Firefox 1.5 at least for now. I recommend you do the same or switch to the surprisingly solid IE 7.0

Although Mozilla hasn't yet changed its Web site to reflect the new release, you can find the final version in the company's FTP site.