Microsoft to offer Free “Morro” Anti-Virus/Malware/Spyware Solution and Discontinue Windows Live OneCare

Still busy looking for free anti-virus, anti-malware or anti-spyware security protection product? Most Windows users will not have such a worry by the second half of 2009, as Microsoft has announced plans to offer a no-cost consumer security offering to “address the growing need for a PC security solution tailored to the demands of emerging markets, smaller PC form factors and rapid increases in the incidence of malware”.

The new security offering, code-named “Morro” will feature a streamlined solution with a smaller footprint that focuses on core anti-malware protection and will provide comprehensive protection from malware including viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans, according to Microsoft press release. The security product won’t provide additional non-security features or advanced functions that comes with commercial consumer security suites from other third-party vendors with the possible exception of a firewall.

“Morro” will be built from the existing anti-malware technology that fuels the company’s current line of security products, Windows Live OneCare. As such, Microsoft also announced that it will discontinue Windows Live OneCare on June 30, 2009, although paid subscription users can continue to receive up-to-date virus signatures throughout the whole subscription period, as explained in Windows Live OneCare blog. The freeware “Morro” will be available as a stand-alone free download and support Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems.

Microsoft: Morro Won’t Compete With Symantec, McAfee?
Microsoft says it will not compete with security companies like Symantec (NSDQ:SYMC) or McAfee, despite its announced plans to discontinue sales of its subscription-based security service and instead offer free security software for users to download. Microsoft’s free download, which the company is calling “Morro,” is designed to defend consumers’ PCs against malware, such as viruses, spyware and Trojans.

Following Microsoft’s announcement, Symantec and McAfee stocks took a nosedive over concerns that the software giant would take a significant portion of their market share in the PC security space. Symantec shares fell 9.44 percent to $11.23, while McAfee’s dropped 6.62 percent to $26.68. However, Microsoft also fell 6 percent at $18.45. The stock market is still a mess so I don’t put much stock in these numbers. Let’s look at them again as we near the June 30th, 2009 time table.

Some security companies maintain that Microsoft’s announcement is a sign of capitulation and an attempt to edge into a market dominated by established security vendors. McAfee said that OneCare, Microsoft’s consumer online security solution, captured less than 2 percent of the market since it was released two years ago, according to Reuters. Microsoft, however, contends that it is not undermining either Symantec’s nor McAfee’s marketshare due to the fact that its new free download only provides protection against malware — a term referring mainly to online threats such as Trojans, spyware and other forms of malicious code.

Meanwhile, Symantec, McAfee and other large security companies offer comprehensive suites and high-end point products that include an array of security features such as encryption, data loss prevention, firewalls and parental controls.

Although the free Morro download will be available to anyone, McAfee said that Microsoft will be going after emerging markets, such as Brazil and other countries that require increased IT security infrastructure but whose residents often lack financial resources to buy and install security software.

“This product is really focused on the 50 to 60 percent (of PC users) who don’t have, or won’t pay for, antivirus protection, antimalware protection,” said Amy Barzdukas, senior director of product management for Microsoft’s Online Services and Windows Division.

Here’s what C-NEt has to say about Morro:

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