Free products dominate security software market

Prominent branding from some vendors doesn't translate into a high number of installs, according to study

High brand visibility from large security vendors doesn't necessarily mean that their products dominate the market, according to a new study of security software.

The study was released Wednesday by Opswat, whose primary product, Oesis, is a development toolkit used to manage third-party security applications.

Opswat's study focused on what kind of endpoint security software users employed, primarily in English-speaking markets.

Opswat gathered the data from Windows users running AppRemover, an application designed to completely uninstall security applications, and Am I Oesis OK?, which can detect whether security applications are compatible with other third-party applications. Both are free tools and have "hundreds of thousands" of deployments, according to Opswat.

Opswat concluded that despite high brand awareness for companies such as Symantec and McAfee, their security software does not necessarily dominate the market in terms of installations.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, free security software suites rule. Forty-two percent of the market is composed of free products, according to the report.

"It would appear that end users have as much faith in the ability of free antivirus applications to keep them as secure as they do paid antivirus," the report said.

Free programs dominated the top four security software deployments, with Avast Free Antivirus at 11.45 percent; Avira AntiVir Personal Free Antivirus, 9.19 percent; AVG Anti-Virus Free, 8.6 percent; and Microsoft's Security Essentials at 7.48 percent.

Ruggero Contu, principal research analyst with Gartner, said the figures are not surprising. Free products are more likely to be popular during a recession, and advanced users looking for other features such as backup and encryption tools will pay for that kind of software.

"I think overall the perception of the free product is that they are good enough products and reliable," Contu said.

Avast's paid antivirus product came in fifth at 5.4 percent, followed by two other paid products, Kaspersky Internet Security, 4.48 percent, and Norton AntiVirus, 4.24 percent.

Vendors that had less than a .98 percent market share on their own collectively counted for some 14.38 percent of the total market installs. Only the top four products -- all free -- had more than 6 percent share.

"It is useful to see the sheer variety of vendors that are occupying a 1- 6 percent antivirus application market share," the report said. "Though in the United States, Symantec and McAfee are often positioned as the top choices, the reality is that competition is alive and well in this highly fragmented sector."

Opswat study said that the true market share of security applications often remains hidden, but that vendors will claim to dominate a market based on their sales numbers versus the reported sales of their competitors.

According to April 2010 figures from Gartner, Symantec led the consumer security software rankings by revenue with about US$1.8 billion for 2009. Next was McAfee with $699 million followed by Trend Micro at $278 million.

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