From a business perspective, nothing shook up the security market during 2008 like Microsoft's decision to kill Windows Live OneCare.
When the company announced in November that it would phase out OneCare in June 2009, observers were quick to call Microsoft's roughly two-year experiment in the consumer security space a failure.
Microsoft, of course, sees it in a different way. To Microsoft, the issue is reaching the plethora of people around the world with low-performance PCs and no anti-malware protection.
"A big complaint that we've heard over the last few years is that consumers, particularly in a developed market, really don't want to have a security solution running on their machine that slows down their machine," said Julie Atalla, director of product marketing for Windows Live OneCare at Microsoft. "[In] developing markets it's really just not even an option because the machines can't handle a lot of the security suites that are out there."
This, Microsoft said, gave birth to the concept of "Morro," a stripped-down consumer security product Microsoft will offer for free in the second half of 2009. Morro is being designed with only anti-malware, anti-spyware and anti-rootkit features to reduce its footprint and offer basic protections to users.
Like OneCare and other security programs, Morro will not play well with other anti-virus engines, Atalla said. Still, if users want to have Morro as their core anti-malware protection and also use elements of other security offerings, they can do that, she added.
Unlike OneCare, Morro is not an attempt to compete with products from the likes of Symantec and McAfee, which offer security suites with many more capabilities. Just as well, some security analysts said, because OneCare never made much headway in the market. When OneCare first touched down, many speculated it would challenge McAfee, Symantec and other traditional security vendors with a low price. But the service never really materialized as a force in the security space.
"Microsoft acquired AV technology in 2003 [and] took three years to bring it to market," said Gartner analyst John Pescatore. "In 2007 [Microsoft] only had .7 percent of consumer AV share and in 2008 announced they would no longer sell it, they would give the AV part away. That is definitely not success-Microsoft spent a lot of money on the consumer AV business and lost a good deal of money. Gartner said back in 2003 that Microsoft should transform, not just threaten, the AV industry, and I think what we said back then proved out."
Atalla, of course, had a different take. Refusing to call OneCare a failure in the market, instead she said it had not met the company's overall goal of reaching the most vulnerable users-those without any malware protection at all.
"What we really wanted to focus on with Morro is getting the rest of consumers protected," Atalla said.