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MS kills off OneCare to introduce free security software

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Microsoft has abandoned its attempt to make money from selling anti-virus software to consumers, two years after entering the cut-throat market.

The Windows Live OneCare consumer security service will be discontinued from the end of June next year in favour of a free consumer product, codenamed Morro, currently under development.

The focus for Morro will be in defending against malware (viruses, Trojans, rootkits etc), omitting the backup and PC tuning features of OneCare, Microsoft explains. Morro will join existing free consumer packages from the likes of AVG and Avira, which have traditionally marketed free anti-malware products as a way of increasing brand awareness.

OneCare is to be killed off most likely because it failed to gain traction and sales in the market. Arguments that Microsoft was attempting to profit from the security shortcomings of Windows are one thing, and unfavourable initial reviews can't have helped, but OneCare's real problem was its failure to eat into the market share of established vendors such as Symantec and McAfee. Symantec responded to these challenges by first decrying Microsoft's lack of security expertise and more recently releasing a version of its flagship consumer, Norton Security 2009, that goes a long way towards addressing long-standing complaints about resource hogging and system bloat.

Microsoft has had a fair bit of success with cleaning up malware infection through its Malicious Software Removal Tool, which is normally updated once every month as part of the Patch Tuesday update cycle. Offering consumers basic anti-malware protection at no cost, straight out of the box, is probably a good thing for internet hygiene. But it's bad news for the likes of Symantec and McAfee.

Much of the duo's success has come from pre-loading their software on PCs. Consumers are likely to be less likely to pay for a full-feature product when a cut-down product is available at no charge. ®

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