Lately, I’ve been delving quite a bit into the consumer
security market. This is perhaps the biggest change in my security coverage as
I moved to focus on vendor-oriented research. Forrester doesn’t have consumer
clients, so our coverage of consumer security in the past has been less then rigorous,
except in cases where our IT clients raise issues in areas like B2C/G2C online
security (phishing, risk based authentication, fraud and identity theft, etc.)

A major source of anxiety for the consumer
security vendors is freeware. Companies like AVG, ALWIL (Avast!), Avira, and
others offer antivirus for free, with Microsoft hitting the market soon with
its new service code-named Morro. But it’s more than just AV: with free antispyware,
free  personal firewall, free HIDS and so
on, the big consumer security vendors have a right to be concerned. Take Symantec,
where 30% of its revenues and 45% of its income comes from its consumer
security division. Symantec and others – such as McAfee, Trend, and even Tier 2 players like Kaspersky – have revenue streams to protect in their consumer security products.

And our market research indicates that these freeware
products are taking a pretty big – and growing – bite out of the market. But
here’s the other thing we’re seeing: consumers aren’t choosing the freeware
products primarily because of price. In fact, they are more likely to select
products based on their own research or the recommendation of people they
trust then basing their selections to a large degree on price.

This should certainly cause some head-scratching from the consumer security vendors. What does this mean for them that freeware is growing, but price isn't the main reason consumers are selecting it?

I have
several thoughts on that I will go into the next post. In the meantime, I’d be
interested to hear back from you about this. What are your thoughts about the consumer freeware “menace”?