On December 16, 2004, Microsoft announced its acquisition of GIANT Company Software, a provider of antispyware and Internet security products. Microsoft will use intellectual property and technology assets from the acquisition to provide new tools for protecting the Windows user community from spyware.

Microsoft has a free beta version of a spyware protection, detection, and removal tool based on the GIANT Antispyware product, which you can download at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx. The beta lets Windows 2000 and later users scan for and remove spyware. Microsoft plans to let users configure the tool so that they can block known spyware and other unwanted software from automatically installing on protected computers. Details about Microsoft's plans for the solution beyond the beta version—including product plans, pricing, and delivery timeline—aren't yet available. Although the beta version is a standalone solution for desktop computers, it would make sense for Microsoft to roll this antispyware product into an enterprise-ready offering that would fit well into the company's Trustworthy Computing initiative.

Keep your eye on an interesting connection between the Microsoft acquisition of GIANT and the Sunbelt Software antispyware tool featured in this review. According to Sunbelt Software's Stu Sjouwerman, "GIANT granted co-ownership rights to Sunbelt for a previous version of Giant's antispyware product." As part of that contract, Sunbelt has the exclusive right to innovate its own product. Although Microsoft and Sunbelt will be developing separate derivatives of different-generation GIANT products, part of the agreement between Microsoft and GIANT states that "Microsoft will be providing definition-file updates to Sunbelt to its spyware database until July 2007. During this time, Microsoft and Sunbelt will share in the ownership of these definition files." The net result of Sunbelt Software's beneficiary status remains to be seen, but the proposition of combining spyware definitions from Sunbelt's existing resources with those from Microsoft should only make the product better equipped to fight spyware.