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Microsoft to buy another anti-virus firm

Microsoft says it will buy FrontBridge Technologies Inc., its second acquisition this year of an e-mail anti-virus protection provider.
/ Source: Reuters

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, said on Wednesday that it would buy FrontBridge Technologies Inc., its second acquisition this year of an e-mail anti-virus protection provider.

FrontBridge provides an outsourcing service that allows companies to have their e-mail and instant messaging scanned before it reaches internal corporate networks. FrontBridge’s subscription service also allows companies to back up their messages and comply with regulations.

In February, Microsoft said it would acquire Sybari Software Inc., which develops software that protects e-mail systems from worms and viruses, as well as spam, or unsolicited e-mail.

Microsoft, which has had a major push over the last three years to improve the reliability and security of its software, said it expected to close the FrontBridge acquisition by the end of September. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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Brendan Barnicle, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, said that Microsoft is looking to round out its security offerings and also provide e-mail security for customers that may not choose to install their own anti-virus and spam software.

“The acquisition allows them to go more into hosted offerings,” Barnicle said, noting that an upcoming upgrade to a Microsoft program for managing customer relationships will also provide hosted services.

Asked if Microsoft planned to bundle FrontBridge’s services with its Exchange e-mail server business, Kim Akers, a marketing manager for Exchange, said that FrontBridge would continue to offer its service separately as an add-on to Microsoft’s products.

“Basically what the customer gets is a clean e-mail stream,” said Akers.

The FrontBridge acquisition is the third major security software-related acquisition for Microsoft in the last few years.

Last year, Microsoft bought Giant Company Software Inc. to offer anti-spyware software, which blocks programs that generate unwanted pop-up ads and secretly record a computer user’s activities.

In 2003, Microsoft acquired anti-virus technology provider GeCAD.

Unlike Sybari, companies that use FrontBridge do not have to install anti-virus software within their networks and instead pay a subscription fee for such services.

Shares in the top two security providers Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc. fell sharply earlier this year when Microsoft announced the Sybari acquisition, but the shares hardly budged on Wednesday after the FrontBridge announcement.