Microsoft has announced that it has partnered with Symantec and retailer PC Mall to offer free software security package for small business until December 31.

Microsoft is offering Symantec EndPoint Protection Small Edition for free for businesses that buy a new copy of Windows 7. The offer is valid for businesses that have up to fifty PCs and at least one server. The free package can be availed from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

Microsoft had made its Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) free for business owners for up to 10 systems in October. It also makes MSE downloads available through its Windows update, an issue that was contested by Trend Micro which stated that since Windows update was an extension of Windows it did not offer users a choice and thus could result in violation of competition laws, Computerworld reported.

Also Panda Research had contested the same move by suggesting that since Microsoft Security Essential will be available on all PCs running Windows it will create a scenario where hackers have only one anti-virus to contend with. This would make the hackers work easier as they have to bypass a single anti-virus compared to a host of anti viruses currently.

MSE was also cited to provide only minimal level of protection. It was also found deficient by Panda Research as a solution to Malware, as the MSE update would only be available for licensed Windows. It stated that since 40 percent of the global systems used pirated software, the update will leave these systems open to virus threat.

Microsoft's is thus tagging with Symantec to allay these fears addressed by rivals. According to Microsoft MSE has been downloaded more than 31 million times. With Windows ubiquity and Microsoft brand supporting the free MSE, coupled with download available through Windows update, the paid antivirus developers are seeing its presence as a disruption to their business.