Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the software giant's Security Technology Unit, have outlined a strategy and product road map that they claim will help boost IT security for the firm's customers.

Ballmer announced plans to release Microsoft Client Protection, an offering designed to help protect business desktops, laptops and file servers from current and emerging malware threats such as spyware and rootkits, as well as viruses and other traditional attacks.

The offering features a management console offering prioritised reports and alerts help focus resources on critical issues. Microsoft Client Protection will integrate with existing IT infrastructure, such as Active Directory and existing software distribution systems. The product is currently in development and Microsoft plans to make an early beta of the product available to select customers later this year. Ballmer provided no details about pricing and licensing which he said will be confirmed at a later date.

In an associated announcement the Redmond giant also unveiled plans to release Microsoft Antigen anti-virus and anti-spam security software for messaging and collaboration servers based on the technology from recently acquired Sybari Software. Microsoft Antigen for Exchange is scheduled to be available in beta to customers in the first half of 2006.

In addition, the company announced the creation of the SecureIT Alliance, which aims to enable participating security partners to more efficiently integrate their products with the Microsoft platform. Ballmer said: "With the continuing onslaught of malware, viruses, phishing attacks and other kinds of internet fraud, creating a more secure computing environment requires a concerted, long-term effort on the part of all technology companies, as well as customers and governments."

"Customers are telling us what our research shows: the nature and complexity of online threats and attacks are continuing to evolve, and hackers, thieves and pirates are getting more sophisticated," Nash added.

"At Microsoft, we believe customers have the right to know what software is running on their machine, how it got there, its purpose and how to remove it if necessary."