MS to Offer Windows Antivirus, More

In a long expected move that the antivirus industry has been dreading, Microsoft will offer a comprehensive security package for Windows users called "Windows OneCare." The subscription service will go beyond online threats, delivering data backup tools and automating computer maintenance tasks.

Currently set to enter beta testing, Windows OneCare revives Microsoft's PC Satisfaction trial from 2003, which bundled third party antivirus and firewall solutions, as well as backup and PC health monitoring services into a single interface.

With OneCare, however, Microsoft is using in-house technologies it has acquired since PC Satisfaction. In June 2003, Microsoft purchased the antivirus technology assets of GeCAD Software. In late 2004, Redmond bought up anti-spyware company Giant Company Software, which led to the release of Windows AntiSpyware earlier this year.

Windows OneCare will pull together Microsoft's disparate security offerings into a single, integrated experience. The service will run in the background, notifying users of updates and potential threats to their system, such as worms, viruses and spyware.

The bundled Windows firewall will provide two-way protection, although it's not clear if OneCare will expand the functionality of the firewall shipped in Windows XP SP2.

OneCare will also automatically carry out PC maintenance including hard drive defragmentation, disk cleanup and file repair. Automated backups can take place to CD or DVD, copying all files on a system or only those that have changed since the last backup.

"Windows OneCare is the next major advance in our ongoing efforts to help keep consumers' Windows-based PCs 'healthy' in a way that's simple and as worry-free as possible for them," said Ryan Hamlin, general manager of the Technology Care and Safety Group at Microsoft.

"We're designing the service so it will continually update and evolve over time, helping to ensure that our customers will have the most complete and effective protection and safety services in place every time they turn on their PC."

Employees at Microsoft will begin testing Windows OneCare this week. A public beta will ship later this year. Interested Windows users can apply now for the private beta test by visiting BetaPlace using the Guest ID: OneCare.

Pricing and a final release date for the subscription service have not been announced by Microsoft.

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