One year after launch, Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) has an install base of over 31 million, which is good for a start, but still three or four times less than that of other free AV products.
The 31 million number was revealed yesterday on the Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC) blog in a post celebrating the product's one year anniversary.
The move is a bit unusual for Microsoft, a company that doesn't make a habit of releasing active user metrics.
Back in May, when we asked Theresa Burch, director of product management for Microsoft Security Essentials, about the number of MSE users, she said the company doesn't share this data publicly.
The only information released by Microsoft until now was that over 1.5 million MSE copies have been downloaded during the first week of general availability.
Of course, such download statistics are only good for marketing purposes and are irrelevant when trying to gauge a product's penetration on the market.
Fortunately, the '31 million installations' estimate now provides a solid point of reference, and let us start by saying that it's a good number for a first year.
In comparison, Czech-based antivirus vendor AVAST Software, recently announced 130 million active users for its avast! Free Antivirus product. Of those, 35 million registered in 2010.
Helmut Büsker, product manager at Avira, which develops Avira AntiVir Personal, told us in an interview that the company has 145 million users worldwide. We are not sure if this number also includes the users of its paid antivirus products.
The other big player on the free av market is AVG Technologies. The Czech company advertises a user base of 110 million.
Microsoft still has a long way to go until it can take on the leading free antivirus vendors in terms of market share, but its plan to make MSE available to small businesses, might boost the product's install base significantly.
The 2.0 version, which is currently still in beta, but we suspect will be launched soon, might also land it a fair share of new users.
Although, looking at the latest on-demand comparative test [PDF] from AV-Comparatives, MSE also has some catch up to do regarding detection rate, but most importantly, performance.
According to the Redmond software giant, outside the United States, MSE is also popular in Brazil, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Canada.