"Windows Live OneCare delivers what millions of consumers have been asking for: one source for top-to-bottom maintenance, support, and performance optimization tools plus increased protection that takes the worry out of PC care," said Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in a statement.
"It's a full PC-care service to keep your PC safe and running well," says Samantha McManus, business strategy manager at Microsoft.
For a suggested price of $49.95 annually, through Best Buy and over a dozen other retailers nationwide, Windows Live OneCare will secure up to three home computers against malicious intruders and inattentive users. According to McManus, OneCare includes free phone, e-mail, and chat support. A beta version of the service launched last November.
Microsoft faces some stiff competition from established security companies. McAfee on Tuesday said it plans to offer a competing service, dubbed "Falcon." In February, Symantec announced its own security service called "Genesis." Both services should be available later this year. Pricing hasn't been disclosed. Trend Micro also plans to offer a security service later this year.
The seriousness with which security vendors view Microsoft's push into the market can be inferred from Symantec's reaction: In May, Symantec filed a lawsuit against Microsoft alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and contract violations. The lawsuit aims to delay the release of Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista operating system.
OneCare includes anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection, along with automatic software updates, automated backup scheduling, and automated hard disk maintenance and file cleanup.
"The vast majority of consumers today don't back up their systems, and they are at risk of losing important digital files," says McManus. OneCare helps automate the process of backing up data onto CDs, DVDs, or hard drives. There's no online data storage option, but McManus suggests Microsoft customers may see one eventually.
Yet OneCare isn't a guarantee. "Guarantee might be a strong word," McManus concedes, though she points out that OneCare's anti-spyware technology, based on Windows Defender, is "one of the top-rated anti-spyware technologies out there."
Even so, Microsoft's top-rated technology has had some rough spots. In March, JupiterResearch analyst Joe Wilcox expressed some frustration with the beta version of OneCare on his company's Microsoft Monitor Blog. "Microsoft is trying to win people's trust about security," he wrote. "That means a product like Windows Live OneCare has to work all the time, even in beta, particularly when the beta is widespread. No exceptions, no excuses are acceptable. As for Microsoft's security software competitors, I wouldn't throw in the tool just yet."
Indeed, the race is on.
To celebrate the launch of Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft retail partner Best Buy is paying to have the OneCare logo displayed on the No. 66 stock car driven by NASCAR racer Jeff Green in the Neighborhood Excellence 400 event to be held this Sunday, June 4, at Dover International Speedway in Delaware.
With 17 accidents in 36 races in 2005, according to USA Today's 2005 NASCAR Crash Database, Green probably knows more about crashes than most PC users.