Microsoft Client Protection is one of Microsoft's new security products and consolidates antispyware tools, virus protection, and antimalware technology. "We've heard from customers that they're lacking solutions for centrally managing malware protection," Paul Bryan, director of product management for the Enterprise Access and Security Products division at Microsoft, told me. "They want fewer security products to manage and need better visibility into the security state of their environments." In many ways, Microsoft Client Protection is exactly what you've been waiting for.

Unified Protection for the Enterprise
In December 2004, Microsoft purchased GIANT Company Software and acquired its best-of-breed antispyware technology. Late last year, Microsoft announced that it would meld GIANT's antispyware technology with its own antivirus and antimalware features and release a subscription-based enterprise offering. The integrated engine in Microsoft Client Protection is being designed to offer the granular control that administrators have come to expect.

What You Get
According to Bryan, Microsoft Client Protection will provide prebuilt reports and alerts that focus on "the right issues." "We're not going to provide a litany of reports \[by default\]," Bryan told me. "We're going to provide actionable information only."

Because it's a Microsoft product, Microsoft Client Protection will integrate seamlessly with existing Microsoft systems. If you already use a software distribution product, Client Protection will integrate with it, and businesses that don't use a software distribution product can use the bundled copy of Windows Software Update Services (WSUS).

Microsoft Client Protection will require Windows Server 2003 (with Service Pack 1—SP1) or Windows 2000 Server (with SP4) on the server. The software can protect Windows 2000 SP4 and Windows XP SP2 (or later) clients, as well as Windows Server 2003 file servers. When Windows Vista and Longhorn Server ship, Microsoft Client Protection will support these products as well.

What, Where, When?
The big questions about Microsoft Client Protection, such as licensing, remain unanswered for now, although the company previously announced that it would license the product through a subscription. Bryan told me that an early beta version of the product will be made available to selected Microsoft customers in late 2005 and that, depending on the feedback it receives, the company hopes to ship the product by the first half of 2006. Bryan said that Microsoft will announce more information about licensing in early 2006.

Recommendations
Although it's still a bit early to recommend Microsoft Client Protection, it's pretty clear that integrated antimalware products will be a big opportunity for business server providers in the coming year. Microsoft's offering is interesting because it combines two of the best antimalware technologies into an integrated product, and if the company gets licensing right, this could be the solution to beat. Stay tuned for more information.