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Microsoft Enters Consumer Security Battle With Symantec

OneCare Live, Microsoft's consumer security service that's been in beta since November, will cost $49.95 for an annual subscription, Microsoft announced Tuesday.
Microsoft on Tuesday set the price for its OneCare Live consumer security subscription service, saying it would launch the service in June.

OneCare Live, which was first announced in May 2005, includes a personal firewall, anti-virus scanning, general PC tune-up utilities, and data backup and recovery tools. It has been in a free beta test phase since November.

The service will cost $49.95 for an annual subscription, Microsoft announced Tuesday, with the license allowing users to install OneCare on up to three machines. The Redmond, Wash.-based developer also plans on offering the service to beta testers at a discounted price of $19.95 if they sign up between April 1 and April 30.

"That three-computer license covers 98 percent of homes," said Brian Hall, OneCare's group product manager.

OneCare, which will be available as a download -- the only way beta testers can get their hands on the service -- and on CD in a boxed version at retail, runs only on Windows XP, although a Vista edition will be rolled out when that OS debuts late in 2006, said Hall. The service will not be bundled with Vista.

Microsoft also firmed up other details of the service. It will, for instance, not bundle Windows Defender -- better known as Windows AntiSpyware -- with OneCare, but will encourage users to download the application, which will be integrated into OneCare's status screens.

Although Microsoft will be the first to offer consumers security-as-a-service, it won't have the market to itself for long. Last week, Symantec announced it would compete with Microsoft by launching its own subscription service, code-named "Genesis," in September. A price for the service, however, has not been set.

Hall was confident Microsoft would win the battle.

"We'll continue to prove that we can do a great job, for example, in delivering anti-virus signatures," he said when asked why consumers should consider a new arrival like Microsoft rather than established players such as Symantec, Trend Micro, or McAfee.

And he downplayed the threat posed by such companies to Microsoft's service. He considers Symantec's Genesis, for instance, as a catch-up to OneCare, something the Cupertino, Calif.-based security company denied last week.

"The fact that they're so far behind is a sign that we really understand what customers want," said Hall.

The beta of OneCare Live can be downloaded free of charge from Microsoft's Web site.