Microsoft has confirmed earlier published reports that Microsoft Security Essentials (codenamed “Morro”), the free antivirus offering that succeeds the now retired non-free Windows Live OneCare, will be released tomorrow, September 29, 2009:
Microsoft today confirmed that it will launch its free security software suite, which has been in development for almost a year, Tuesday morning.
The spokeswoman added that the program will be made available Tuesday morning, Pacific time, although she did not have a specific hour for the launch.
Earlier in the day, Network World‘s John Fontana had been told by Bob Muglia, the president of Microsoft’s sever and tools division, that the company would ship the free software Tuesday.
Microsoft has pitched the software as a basic anti-virus, anti-spyware program that consumes less memory and disk space than commercial security suites, like those from vendors such as McAfee, Symantec and Trend Micro.
Those companies, however, unanimously dismissed Security Essentials — once codenamed “Morro” — as proof that Microsoft couldn’t compete in the paying market.
That may well be classified as whistling past the graveyard since very little trumps free and if Windows Security Essentials is as good as the beta reviews indicated, the security vendors may have a real problem. I’m still waiting for one or more of them to drop a dime to the antitrust regulators in the US or EU.
If you want to get Windows Security Essentials on day one, keep checking the Microsoft WSE website for the download.
Last week (as had been rumored earlier in the month) Microsoft started a limited beta of its upcoming free antivirus product which had been codenamed Morro, but was formally christened as Microsoft Security Essentials. The beta was limited to 75,000 downloaders and has currently reached the limit so would-be tire kickers will have to wait for general availability which is expected later in the year.
Frankly, it takes a brave person (or one with a dedicated test machine) to test something as vital and potentially intrusive as PC antivirus software, but so far there have been no complaints that I have seen and in fact, preliminary results from testing company AV-Test GmbH indicate that Microsoft Security Essentials is looking very good:
AV-Test GmbH tested Microsoft Security Essentials, the free software Microsoft launched yesterday in beta, on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, putting it up against nearly 3,200 common viruses, bot Trojans and worms, said Andreas Marx, one of the firm’s two managers. The malware was culled from the most recent WildList, a list of threats actually actively attacking computers.
"All files were properly detected and treated by the product," said Marx in an e-mail. "That’s good, as several other [antivirus] scanners are still not able to detect and kill all of these critters yet."
AV-Test also examined the program’s anti-rootkit skills and its ability to scrub a system of malware it finds with a limited number of samples and "found no reasons to complain," Marx said. "[Security Essentials] is able to remove found malware very well, but further tests against larger sets of samples are required before we can come to a final conclusion."
Microsoft Security Essentials also had no false positives in the preliminary testing.
In case you were wondering, the testing also confirmed that Microsoft Security Essentials is not a "cloud" virus scanner as had been suggested in some early speculations – it is a conventional scanner working off databases downloaded to each PC. Without any concrete evidence, my assumption is that Microsoft Security Essentials is just a spiffed up version of the antivirus portion of Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft’s failed commercial security package which will no longer be sold after June 30.
Last November when Microsoft announced they were pulling the plug on Windows Live OneCare (actual last sale date June 30, 2009), they promised a new free antivirus offering for Windows codenamed "Morro" in the 2nd half of 2009. Today, Reuters is reporting that a Morro beta is coming soon:
A Microsoft spokesman said on Wednesday that the world’s biggest software maker is testing an early version of the product with its own employees. Microsoft would "soon" make a trial version, or product beta, available via its website, he added, but declined to provide a specific date.
Microsoft has said that Morro will offer basic features for fighting a wide range of viruses, which would likely make it comparable to low-end consumer products from Symantec and McAfee that cost about $40 per year.
Symantec shares fell 0.5 percent on Nasdaq and McAfee fell 1.3 percent on the New York Stock Exchange, while Microsoft was up 2.1 percent.
Microsoft is billing Morro as a "public service," but I am hard-pressed to believe that will fly. Antitrust regulators – start your engines!
Microsoft says they are pulling the plug on their Windows Live OneCare antivirus package in favor of a free offering code-named "Morro" to be available in the second half of 2009:
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, Microsoft Corp. plans to offer a new consumer security offering focused on core anti-malware protection.
Code-named “Morro,” this streamlined solution will be available in the second half of 2009 and will provide comprehensive protection from malware including viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans. This new solution, to be offered at no charge to consumers, will be architected for a smaller footprint that will use fewer computing resources, making it ideal for low-bandwidth scenarios or less powerful PCs. As part of Microsoft’s move to focus on this simplified offering, the company also announced today that it will discontinue retail sales of its Windows Live OneCare subscription service effective 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. “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.”
Built on Microsoft’s award-winning malware protection engine, “Morro” will take advantage of the same core anti-malware technology that fuels the company’s current line of security products, which have received the VB100 award from Virus Bulletin, Checkmark Certification from West Coast Labs and certification from the International Computer Security Association Labs. The new solution will deliver the same core protection against malware as that offered through Microsoft’s enterprise solutions, but will not include many of the additional non-security features found in many consumer security suites.
Microsoft is touting this as a public service (particularly in developing nations), but I am sure the competing security software vendors will view it differently. Presumably to reduce complaints, Microsoft is taking great pains to say that they won’t be giving away any of the non-malware fighting functionality that was in OneCare (and typically in competing Internet security suites), but most of that is only marginally useful at best and certainly won’t support the yearly subscription fees that are currently being charged.
I am very sympathetic to this plan, but cannot believe it will not face hostility from antitrust regulators.
“Morro” will be available as a stand-alone download and offer malware protection for the Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems. When used in conjunction with the ongoing security and privacy enhancements of Windows and Internet Explorer, this new solution will offer consumers a robust, no-cost security solution to help protect against the majority of online threats.
Windows Live OneCare will continue to be sold for Windows XP and Windows Vista at retail through June 30, 2009. Direct sales of OneCare will be gradually phased out when “Morro” becomes available. Regardless of their method of purchase, Microsoft will ensure that all current customers remain protected through the life of their subscriptions.
More information is available on the Windows Live OneCare Team Blog at http://windowsonecare.spaces.live.com.
- Microsoft’s Equipt — which Microsoft launched in July of this year — is dead and Microsoft is having to go back and pull copies of Equipt from the channel (Circuit City in the U.S. and DSGI in the U.K.). Microsoft is offering customers a pro-rated refund for the service and allowing purchasers to keep Office Home & Student edition for free forever, Microsoft officials said.
- Windows Live OneCare for Server — which Microsoft began shipping on November 12, also is dead. A corporate spokesperson confirmed this with the following statement: “Microsoft will continue to support Windows Live OneCare for Server on SBS 2008 through June 30, 2009. Windows Live OneCare for Server subscribers will be supported for the duration of their subscription.”
I mentioned the Equipt consumer subscription offering back in July. Curiouser and curiouser.