Antivirus arrogance?

Defining arrogance is like defining pornography: We know what it is when we see it.

          Defining arrogance is like defining pornography: We know what it is when we see it. I've been accused of arrogance often enough -- usually by people who don't know me very well, but occasionally by enraged girlfriends -- that I find it easy to identify in others. We certainly have a lot of arrogance going around this year; and for a change, I don't even have to mention Microsoft.

          But I will mention that Symantec recently jacked the renewal fee for its anti-virus subscription service from $US3.95 per year to $US9.95 per year. This is the fee that you have to pay to use Live Update, the automatic download feature of Symantec's products, after expiration of the one-year subscription included with the original product. Granted, six bucks isn't a big deal, especially when one is paying by credit card.

          Still, I remember when virus definitions were free -- if you downloaded and installed them yourself. When Symantec came out with Live Update, I saw it as a convenience for the multitude of users who could barely manage email, much less an anti-virus utility.

          Now it's become a high-tech version of the guy who hangs out in front of the corner market asking for spare change. Or worse: These days, even if you manually download the update, the software won't install until you've paid Symantec. I see the point in charging for the wider service, but to charge for the virus updates themselves is just being cheap.

          Cheap I can live with, but Symantec's decision to raise the subscription price by 150% is plumb arrogant. Especially when rival McAfee, with a subscription service that runs $US4.95 annually, apparently has no plans to hike its rate. Now that's smart, especially in today's cash-tight economy. I haven't been a big fan of McAfee's anti-virus products in the past. Technically they're as good as they come, but I've found it cumbersome to perform what amounts to a reinstallation of the software every time a new virus is found. I may have to take a fresh look at desktop anti-virus software -- and soon.

          After all, it's hard enough to get ordinary mortals, as opposed to the digitally paranoid such as yours truly, to keep their anti-virus software current when the stinking updates are free. Raising the Live Update subscription price is supposed to make this situation better? Exactly how? I reckon that many of this past year's headaches with email viruses, worms, and their kin came about because most everyone who got a computer during the holidays in 1999 let their anti-virus subscriptions lapse until it was too late.

          It's not about the money. It's the principle. If I knew that the fee was going directly into the pockets of Symantec's employees, I'd gladly pony up $US10. But it isn't, so I won't.

          PJ Connolly covers collaboration, networking, operating systems, and security for the InfoWorld Test Centre.

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