Windows Live OneCare Software Ships Early

Microsoft will release a fully supported version of its Windows Live OneCare software tomorrow, marking the software giant's entry into the security software market.

OneCare will be available for download as of May 31 on Microsoft's Web site, a day earlier than expected. By Thursday, the software is expected to be widely available in U.S. retail stores, said Microsoft's Samantha McManus, a business strategy manager with Windows Live OneCare.

The software will begin shipping outside of the U.S. "within the next year," she said, while declining to say which country would be the first to follow the U.S. launch. The software, which will cost about $50 annually for up to three PCs, may be purchased from Microsoft's OneCare site.

What's Included

OneCare includes firewall, antivirus, and backup software, as well as Microsoft's Windows Defender antispyware technology, which is still in beta form. The product also handles routine maintenance tasks such as defragmenting the hard disk and cleaning up unused temporary files.

Microsoft's entry into the market shakes things up for security vendors like Symantec and McAfee, which are now scrambling to deliver security products that have the same back-up and PC tuning features as their new competitor.

Competitors' Offerings

Symantec expects to ship a OneCare competitor, code-named Genesis, by year's end. And on Tuesday, McAfee said it would deliver its own backup and security product, code-named Falcon, by September. A beta version of Falcon is expected within the "next few weeks," according to a McAfee spokesperson.

With the release of the final version of OneCare, users can now get telephone support for the software. As noted, Microsoft is selling OneCare subscriptions at $49.95 per year under a novel, three-user plan that is designed to simplify things for home and small-business users.

Vista Beta Coming

The OneCare beta program, which has been running since November, will be phased out over the next few months, and beta users who want to continue to run OneCare will have to purchase the product, McManus said.

However, a new beta program, designed to test the upcoming Windows Vista version of the software, will start up later in the year. Windows Vista is expected to ship in early 2007, and OneCare for Vista will be available at around the same time, McManus said.

Security software is commonly distributed with new hardware, or included with Internet access services, but so far, Microsoft has said little about how it plans to distribute OneCare beyond its Web site and retail avenues. "We're still pretty early with this service," McManus said. "We're definitely investigating a number of ways we could make this more broadly available."

Microsoft is also considering the idea of including an online backup service with OneCare, similar to that planned for Symantec's Genesis, McManus said. At present, OneCare can back up to external hard drives, CDs, or DVDs.

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