In an announcement that could send reverberations throughout the antivirus software world, Microsoft Corp. said that it was acquiring antivirus technology from a small Romanian company, GeCAD Software Srl of Bucharest, Romania.

In a statement, the Redmond, Washington, company said that it was acquiring the "intellectual property and technology assets" of GeCAD. Details of the purchase were not provided.

Calls to GeCAD were not answered.

GeCAD makes RAV Antivirus, a family of security products that includes antivirus, antispam and content filtering technology for service providers, enterprises and home users.

As part of the deal, GeCAD will retain its name and the rights to the RAV Antivirus product name. The company will continue operating a small consulting business and providing its customers with RAV Antivirus signature updates, in keeping with its contractual obligations, according to Mike Nash, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Security Business Unit.

However, GeCAD will cease development of the RAV product once the acquisition is complete, Nash said. While GeCAD's antivirus engineering staff would be joining Microsoft's Security Business Unit in Redmond.

Microsoft will use the GeCAD technology to provide antivirus "solutions" for Microsoft products and services, Microsoft said.

While Microsoft did not provide a timeline or pricing information for the "solutions" it will be developing, the company did say that GeCAD technology would be used to help keep Windows users up to date with virus signatures and to develop a new generation of antivirus tools for "evolving threat models."

The company said that the acquisition of GeCAD will help Microsoft and its partners mitigate the risks of viruses and malicious code.

"Our goal is to make sure we get as close to the (malicious code) problem and get a deeper understanding of it so that as the problem evolves, we can evolve our solutions to deal with it," Nash said.

Asked what kinds of solutions Microsoft would be developing, Nash declined to provide specifics but said that Microsoft would sell its antivirus technology separately from the Windows operating system.

Similar to other antivirus software vendors, Microsoft would also be offering a subscription service to obtain antivirus signature updates, he said.

The company did not yet have specific details about pricing and packaging for the technology, but Microsoft was interested in addressing all the markets currently served by the RAV technology -- from service providers down to the desktop, according to Nash.

"Our interest is where our customers need us to be. The (antivirus) engines are similar across all those products, as are the signatures," he said.

With its products and operating systems the frequent target of virus writers, Microsoft is devoting an increasing amount of attention to antivirus technology in recent months.

In May, for example, the company joined with antivirus vendors Network Associates Inc. and Trend Micro Inc. to form the Virus Information Alliance in an effort to keep users better informed about virus threats to Microsoft products.

GeCAD's stripped down antivirus technology may have been more interesting to Microsoft than more established stand-alone products such as Norton Antivirus by Symantec Corp. or McAfee from Network Associates, according to John Pescatore, an analyst at Gartner Inc.

"The (GeCAD) technology had so little else wrapped around it, and Microsoft didn't want to deal with absorbing a sales force and channel -- everything else you get with a bigger company," Pescatore said.

In addition to making life tough for established antivirus software vendors, Microsoft would make consumers suffer if it were to try to dominate the antivirus software market as it did with the market for Web browsers, Pescatore said.

Microsoft has gone to great pains to emphasize that it intends to continue working with third party antivirus companies. The company briefed antivirus companies on its decision to buy GeCAD Monday, Nash said.

Microsoft will continue to develop application program interfaces (APIs) that will give antivirus companies a more direct path into workings of the Windows operating system and Microsoft applications, he added.