Two years after releasing Windows Live OneCare with much fanfare, Microsoft announced Nov. 18 that it is abandoning the subscription service next June.
But it is not getting out of the consumer security business. In fact, the company plans to release a free anti-malware product code-named "Morro" in the second half of 2009.
According to Microsoft, Morro will be architected to use minimal computing resources to make it amenable to low-bandwidth scenarios and less powerful PCs. The trade-off for the smaller footprint is that it will not have some of the nonsecurity features found in OneCare, such as printer sharing, Microsoft officials said.
As part of the new product plan, Microsoft will discontinue retail sales of OneCare as of June 30, 2009.
"Customers around the world have told us that they need comprehensive, ongoing protection from new and existing threats, and we take that concern seriously," said Amy Barzdukas, senior director of product management for the Online Services and Windows Division at Microsoft, in a statement. "This new, no-cost offering will give us the ability to protect an even greater number of consumers, especially in markets where the growth of new PC purchases is outpaced only by the growth of malware."
Microsoft's entry into the consumer security market in 2006 set off some waves in the security market, with Symantec CEO John Thompson openly criticizing OneCare's pricing at various times. Still, Microsoft's product never won substantial market share from Symantec, McAfee or other major players.
Morro will be available as a stand-alone download and will offer malware protection for the Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems. Direct sales of OneCare will be gradually phased out when Morro becomes available, Microsoft officials said.