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Computer protection starts at home.  (Source:
Microsoft looks to take the fight to malware makers with its own free product

Microsoft has long annoyed security software makers over the last decade as it has rolled out free products which often offer a competitive alternative to competitor's packaged software free-of-charge.  Microsoft merely offered a decently competitive product for a much cheaper price -- free.

With its firewall and antispyware (Windows Defender) built into Vista, business for private firewall software already has taken a hit.  Now in a move that is sure to make Trend Micro, McAffee, Norton, and other security software makers lose sleep; Microsoft has announced that in 2009, it will offer free antivirus software.

To understand this new announcement, a quick trip down memory lane is in order. 

Microsoft first entered the antivirus software business in 1992 with its Microsoft Anti-Virus product, which it contracted to Central Point Inc. (later acquired by Symantec).  The software was designed for Microsoft DOS 6.0 through 6.22 and could detect an impressive 1,234 viruses.  Unfortunately, there were no updates available, though a 1996 pack brought the total up to 2,371 viruses.  Embarrassingly, the software though the Windows 95 installer file was a virus.

After the mixed reviews of Microsoft A-V, Microsoft left the business until 2005 when it released betas of Windows Live OneCare.  The suite combined antivirus software with a tune-up utility, a stronger firewall, and a file backup utility.  The bundle was made commercially available May 31, 2006.  Subsequent Live OneCare 1.5, 2.0, and 2.5 have also hit the market since, with the 2.5 iteration debuting in July 3 of this year.

Arriving in the present, Microsoft has announced it is axing the subscription based antivirus software business and will offer its antivirus tools for free.  The new suite is codenamed "Morro" and will available in the second half of 2009.  Microsoft describes the software as a "streamlined solution" and states, "[Morro] will provide comprehensive protection from malware including viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans. This new solution, to be offered at no charge to consumers, will be architected for a smaller footprint that will use fewer computing resources, making it ideal for low-bandwidth scenarios or less powerful PCs."

The latter portion appears to be a clear nod to Windows efforts to push for a leaner footprint from top-to-bottom, a major focus of Windows 7 (which has been subject to recent doubts).

Microsoft will discontinue the OneCare subscription service June 30, 2009, but customers should fret not -- they will soon receive virtually the same solution entirely for free.

Amy Barzdukas, senior director of product management for the Online Services and Windows Division at Microsoft states, "Customers around the world have told us that they need comprehensive, ongoing protection from new and existing threats, and we take that concern seriously.  This new, no-cost offering will give us the ability to protect an even greater number of consumers, especially in markets where the growth of new PC purchases is outpaced only by the growth of malware."

Microsoft has acknowledged that the suite may not contain some of the extra non-security utilities such as tune up and printer sharing available in some commercial antivirus solutions.  However, when it comes to its core AV product it brags that its malware engine has garnered many awards already, including the VB100 award from Virus Bulletin, Checkmark Certification from West Coast Labs and certification from the International Computer Security Association Labs.  Microsoft has made great strides in security, besting a Mac machine and tying a Linux box at a recent hacker conference.

The new software will be available for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.  Microsoft plans to integrate it with the upcoming Internet Explorer 8 browser which features many security enhancements including the much talked about "Porn Mode".

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This is incredible.
By arazok on 11/19/2008 10:27:27 AM , Rating: 2
I have been using OneCare since it’s inception and love it.

As the computer expert in the family, I was always getting dragged out to everyone house when they got a virus from running no anti-virus. For $20 a year, I could run OneCare on my PC, as well as every single family members. (You get 3 licenses, but I have been able to install 5 without complaint from Microsoft so far) This program ELIMINATED these trips for me. Now I get it for free?! AWSOME!

RE: This is incredible.
By 306maxi on 11/19/2008 10:35:40 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps rather foolishly I don't bother with an AV solution on my PC (Vista 64) at all. I've done so since XP SP2 came out and Norton didn't play to play ball with it. I've not had a single virus in that time. My wife runs AVG on her PC and it never seems to catch anything and only seems to slow her PC down at the most inconvenient of times. I do occasionally install AVG and run a full scan but it never finds anything of interest.

i'll give Onecare a go when it becomes free purely because of the level of integration it has with Vista but I doubt I'll use it for any length of time.

RE: This is incredible.
By Mitch101 on 11/19/2008 11:00:58 AM , Rating: 2
Its usually free after rebate and your allowed to install it on up to 3 machines. Its not only an AV solution but also does other things like backup and defrags.

My only complaints about OneCare is if I tell it to do a manual scan it doesn't report back it will just close when done and while I have told it to run a full scan it still says it hasn't done one in months. I suspect it might be bombing out but there doesn't seem to be any logged location to tell me much more. It really lacks good feedback that tells me its working.

My other complaint is that with other products I can tell what viruses my machine is protected from by looking up the virus on their site and comparing it to my engine/definition. When I get an alert about a new virus with one care I cant tell if one care will protect me against it.

It's the same problem with Antigen you cant tell what viruses you are protected from.

But at least it isnt resending e-mails multiple times like McCaffee does and isnt nearly as annoying as Symantec was at killing my FTP connections and calling it worm activity.

RE: This is incredible.
By Gage8 on 11/19/2008 11:06:19 AM , Rating: 2
Same here. I haven't run an AV program in years. Just scan with Malwarebyte's AntiMalware, Spybot once in a while and never have any problems in XP or Vista. Of course I'm not downloading free screen savers and junk either...

RE: This is incredible.
By arazok on 11/19/2008 11:11:19 AM , Rating: 2
I never used AV either, until I got one. This was before XP SP2, when it was easier to get a virus from just visiting a site, but I learned my lesson.

At this point, I view AV as a sanity application. For a while, I was rebuilding at least one computer a month because my friends/family seem to just install everything they come across.

Now, I install OneCare for my family and pay the renewal myself. For friends, I fix their computer for free ONCE, and tell them that if they don’t BUY software, then I won’t fix it the next time. I rarely find myself fixing computers anymore.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

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