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Not everyone may realize this, but it’s worth noting that all Microsoft Signature PCs (name-brand computers sold at their online and retail stores) include Microsoft Security Essentials pre-installed.

Microsoft isn’t making the mistake of competing with their own OEM customers in the PC business. However, for their new PC re-selling initiative, they are hand-selecting a number of PCs from major manufacturers (Dell, HP, Lenovo, Sony, Toshiba, Asus and Acer), and creating “Signature” editions.

These special editions are pre-built with standard Windows components (IE 8, etc.), but also include Windows Media Center, Internet TV for Media Center, Microsoft Security Essentials, Bing 3D Maps, Zune 4.0 and all the major Live components.

Consider the Toshiba NB205. If you buy it from Microsoft, you’ll get Microsoft Security Essentials. If you buy the exact same PC from Toshiba at the same price, you’ll get Norton Internet Security pre-installed.

PC vendors get significant dollars from security companies (these days, primarily McAfee and Symantec) to pre-install antivirus software — reportedly anywhere from $8–$12 per unit. Now, that may seem like a pittance, but this is big money for a PC maker, already living on razor-thin margins. There is enough of an advantage to being part of the Microsoft reselling effort that the PC makers will let go of some of these pre-bundling deals.

This is also a nifty way for Microsoft to potentially get around anti-trust issues. They don’t include Apple products (Quicktime, iTunes). They don’t include non-Microsoft security applications. But it’s because it’s their own product they are selling on their own stores.

This is a development worth keeping an eye on.

Alex Eckelberry
(Hat tip to Colleen)

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