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Trend Micro has cried foul over plans by Microsoft to offer its Security Essentials freebie scanner as an automatic download.

Plans by Redmond to offer its scanner through its built-in update service could stymie competition, according to the number three security software supplier.

Microsoft introduced the auto-update feature in the US last week following its mid-October debut in the UK.

"Commercializing Windows Update to distribute other software applications raises significant questions about unfair competition," Carol Carpenter, the general manager of the consumer and small business group at Trend Micro, told Computerworld.

Trend's argument is that Windows Update is a component of the operating system and ought not to be used to deliver applications. Microsoft has responded that its security software is being released through Microsoft Update and not Windows Update, essentially arguing that Trend's concerns are misplaced. Microsoft Update already offers security updates for Office and Windows Media Player.

Microsoft Security Essentials is only offered as a download in cases where the software fails to detect any security software running on a PC. Anti-virus software by its nature needs low level access to probe into the operating systems stack. The technology works best alone - running two anti-virus packages on the same PC is generally a bad idea.

What is possible is running anti-virus client software and an online scanner on the same PC. Trend Micro's main business is with corporates and OEMs but it does play in the online scanner for consumers business that it argue might be harmed by Redmond's attentions.

There's also some concern that Redmond's technology might have an adverse effect on Trend Micro in the small business marketplace, Ars Technica adds.

Redmond began offering Microsoft Security Essentials to small businesses last month.

It's unclear whether or not Trend Micro plans to launch any formal objection over Microsoft Security Essentials. Our questions on this have been passed onto Trend's US team. We'll update this story as and when we hear more. ®

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