Antivirus app is codenamed Morro and will be free

Microsoft is the largest software company on the planet with applications ranging from office productivity to the operating systems the vast majority of consumer computers run on. Microsoft has also offered protection suits to help keep computers running its software operating efficiently.

Reuters reports that Microsoft is getting ready to unveil a free antivirus service for computers to compete with the many retail antivirus offerings on the market. Microsoft first made plans for its free antivirus offering codenamed "Morro" in November of 2008. At the time, Microsoft said that the service would be launching in the second half of 2009.

The exact launch date of the new free anti-virus service has yet to be announced, but Reuters reports that Microsoft will "soon" make a beta version of the free protection available for users. Investors in security software firms like McAfee and Symantec are worried that a free offering from Microsoft could potentially harm revenue for the companies.

Analyst Daniel Ives said, "It's a long-term competitive threat." However, Ives said that the short-term impact of the free Microsoft offering would be minimal. Not much is known about Morro at this point other than it will offer free basic protection against different virus types and is comparable to low-end software from rival firms selling in the $40 price range.

Morro came out of an unsuccessful offering from Microsoft called Live OneCare that never proved popular among users. Microsoft said in November when it announced the free antivirus offering that Live OneCare would be phased out.

Symantec's Janice Chaffin said, "Microsoft's free product is basically a stripped down version of the OneCare product Microsoft pulled from the shelves. A full internet security suite is what consumers require today to stay fully protected."

A McAfee spokesman said that his company is already working well and competing against free antivirus offerings already on the market.

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