Windows Vista doesn’t need antivirus! *snort* *snicker*
This is the vibe that has been following a "report" that has been circulating over the last few days, dubiously headlined: "Allchin Suggests Vista Won’t Need Antivirus." The "cut-to-the-chase" version is this: Allchin says that his seven-year-old son uses Windows Vista, and that he is comfortable with what his son can and can’t do on his computer. Allchin says nothing about Vista not needing antivirus software. Here’s the quote:
"My son, seven years old, runs Windows Vista, and, honestly, he doesn’t have an antivirus system on his machine. His machine is locked down with parental controls, he can’t download things unless it’s to the places that I’ve said that he could do, and I’m feeling totally confident about that," he added. "That is quite a statement. I couldn’t say that in Windows XP SP2."
Notice what is lacking: any statement whatsoever to the effect that "Windows Vista doesn’t need antivirus." The point Allchin was trying to make was that he believes that Windows Vista is more secure than Windows XP SP2, and in particular he makes it clear that he believes Vista’s parental controls will prevent his son from downloading stuff he shouldn’t be downloading. If you’ve had a chance to play with Vista, you may know that the parental controls essentially remove almost all of a user’s rights. In Allchin’s case, his son can only visit websites that have been whitelisted. Does this sound like normal Windows usage to you? Would you infer that he’s talking about normal Windows usage here?
Allchin also mentions that his son doesn’t have an antivirus application, but he neither recommends this state of affairs or says that it is good thing per se. Obviously the key here is the parental controls, and Allchin’s hope that Vista is indeed more secure than XP SP2. How this was morphed into him boasting that Vista doesn’t need antivirus software is beyond us.
The story was subsequently picked up by a number of writers who neither looked at what Allchin said nor put it into context, so Allchin himself decided to post a rebuttal on his blog. Unsurprisingly, some authors are spinning this as Allchin "backing off" his claims, but a closer look shows that he’s no backing off of his claims, he’s saying that he was misrepresented by the stories in question.
Allchin explicitly denies having said anything along the lines of what was inferred from his comments, writing that "it is also clear from the transcript [of the chat] that I didn’t say that users shouldn’t run antivirus software with Windows Vista! In fact, later in the call, I explicitly made this point again, because I had realized I wasn’t as clear as I should have been." Ars Technica has seen a transcript of the call, and Allchin did in fact make his point suitably clear.
Now one may believe that Vista will indeed be more secure than Windows XP SP2, but Allchin did not say that regular Windows Vista users should go commando when it comes to anti-virus software. You have to infer that from his comments, and the context makes it quite clear that such an inference would be off base.
To be sure, Allchin has said things in the past that have made him look a bit silly, but this isn’t one of them. Even if we suspend reality and pretend that Vista will be so secure that it doesn’t need antivirus (yeah, right), are we supposed to believe that Microsoft’s big plan with Windows OneCare—the new software suite Microsoft is selling centered around antivirus protection—is that… no one needs it? That’ll be the day.