The technology in Microsoft’s new business security product, Forefront, is not up to scratch, rivals have warned.

The company launched Forefront Client Security and System Centre Essentials 2007 this week, trailing it as a way for businesses to manage laptop and PC security through one interface.

The image problem for Microsoft is that the core security technology in Forefront is believed to be the same as that in the company’s much criticised consumer anti-malware Windows Live OneCare service. As with the latter, the software comprises an anti-malware client tied to a central server capable of real-time updates.

Now Symantec and Sophos have waded in with a series of criticisms of its design, casting doubt on the core technology to do a good enough job for business administrators.

“OneCare has failed multiple third-party anti-virus tests, including the latest Virus Bulletin, which is widely considered the benchmark test for AV engines,” said Symantec in its public pronouncement on Forefront’s core architecture.

Meanwhile, Graham Cluley of Sophos doubted that Microsoft had the right service ethos to provide security to its business customers.

“I think it goes beyond just comparing it to OneCare, and the shared code base. Anti-virus tech support is not like supporting a Word processor - if a customer has a problem with a virus on their network they want assistance RIGHT NOW,“ he said.

“Every time news stories emerge of new vulnerabilities being discovered in Microsoft's software, their image as a credible security vendor is in risk of being further tarnished.”

“Like any new major product businesses are going to wait before rolling it out across their enterprise. They are not going to be easily convinced to rip out what they have and replace it with a new product until they are assured of its pedigree, and that the company behind it has the service and support structure required to give them a secure defence,” concluded Cluley.

In March, a test by Austrian company AV Comparatives placed OneCare last out of 17 anti-malware programs, finding its detection rate to be just 82.4 percent. Earlier, the product had also failed the respected VB 100 tests run by Virus Bulletin and, separately, had been found to contain an unhelpful bug that deleted Outlook email while scanning for malware.