ARN - Trend Micro is in the process of consolidating its product support offerings in the wake of a consumer backlash.
Research conducted by Australian consumer advocacy magazine, Computer Choice, indicated antivirus software users were confused by the different levels of support provided for preinstalled and shop-bought versions of antivirus software.
"The support options are very different and not always clearly explained," Computer Choice editor, Georgina Swan, said. "Support is the thing that really differentiates one product from another, and the support offering some vendors gave with preloaded software was very different from what was offered if the customers purchased the software separately."
Strategy and business development manager at antivirus and security software vendor Trend Micro, George Farah, said the problem arose particularly in relation to motherboards imported from Taiwan, which came with preloaded software as an option.
"In the past local OEMs would bring in our product directly from Taiwan bundled with a motherboard, and this would have a different level of service from what you bought here," Farah said. "But we are taking steps to make sure all of our customers receive the same levels of support."
However, this new approach will also mean the end of one of an affordable antivirus software offering.
Managing director of South Australian reseller Compu-U-Learn, Charmaine Dangerfield, said the Trend Micro software which came in conjunction with the motherboards came in handy for cash-strapped customers.
"If I knew they were scratching around for money I would install the CDs that traditionally came with the motherboard, at least that way they had something protecting their machine," Dangerfield said. "Everybody wants something for nothing."
Nonetheless, Dangerfield's preference was to install software which came with comprehensive support.
"Customers will come in and blame us if they get a virus on their new computer," Dangerfield said. "In the past we have wasted hours with people trying to solve technical support problems that should be up to the vendor."
Unlike Trend Micro, McAfee has traditionally offered the same levels of support for shop-bought or preinstalled programs, as does local antivirus vendor, Vet.
"I like installing Vet because I know that if I can't solve a problem with a customer's computer I can just call through to them and they will help out," Dangerfield said. "They have really good technical support."
As well as simplifying its support option, Trend Micro's Farah said the company was focusing on improving the support, and looking for ways to make its software easier-to-use and therefore safer.
"Now we are looking at integrating antivirus and Internet security code into modems, so that when the customer logs on they are automatically given the option to subscribe to our service," Farah said.
And while such a move could potentially rob local manufacturers and whitebox resellers of a sale, Farah said there is an increasing trend towards the provision of antivirus software as an ongoing service rather than a one-off purchase.
"Another option we are looking at is integrating our products with ISP services so that they offer subscription-based security as a part of an Internet connection," Farah said.