Microsoft's OneCare Replacement: Is Free Good For You?

When Microsoft announced its <a href="http://onecare.live.com/standard/en-us/3/default.htm">Windows OneCare</a> utility suite back in 2005, there was a lot of speculation about what it would mean for security powerhouses like Symantec and McAfee. The answer turned out to be, "not much." Now that Microsoft has announced <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2008/nov08/11-18NoCostSecurityPR.mspx">OneCare's replacement</a>, a free anti-malware product code-named Morro, security companie

Dave Methvin, Contributor

November 18, 2008

2 Min Read

When Microsoft announced its Windows OneCare utility suite back in 2005, there was a lot of speculation about what it would mean for security powerhouses like Symantec and McAfee. The answer turned out to be, "not much." Now that Microsoft has announced OneCare's replacement, a free anti-malware product code-named Morro, security companies should be a lot more concerned.After only a few years in the for-pay consumer security market, Microsoft threw in the towel. It's hard to blame them, because Microsoft offering for-pay security services is a bit of a PR disaster, even perhaps a conflict of interest. After all, you've paid Microsoft a few hundred dollars for the operating system; now they have to come up with a pitch that justifies you paying them more without saying that Windows is horribly insecure. Third-party security companies can make that claim without insulting the guys across the hall.

Is anyone really happy with their security software? Just a week ago I expressed frustration with the whole situation, where security software often seems more like a sinner than a savior. Microsoft makes a few more good points in its Q&A on the decision. For example, "Free trials can confuse consumers as to whether or not their PC is secure, and procrastination when it comes to renewing a paid service can mean that consumers aren't getting the most up-to-date protection."

So now Microsoft has committed to offering free anti-malware software for consumers by the second half of 2009. This isn't some Windows-7-only deal, either; it's being offered for XP, Vista, and Windows 7. The new Morro drops the computer maintenance features of OneCare and focuses just on security threats. As a result, Microsoft says it will be smaller and less resource-intensive than OneCare, allowing it to run on netbooks and other PCs of meager means.

If Microsoft really delivers on these promises, it could mean a lot less frustration and hassle for users. It also could mean a lot less revenue for the big security vendors. If that makes Windows a better place to work and play, I'm all for it.

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