Microsoft’s OneCare Live antivirus, firewall, tuneup, and backup service has now entered a public beta test. From the Windows OneCare Team Blog:
Windows OneCare Live has been in what we call “managed beta” since this summer. That meant that it wasn’t widely available — it was limited to a set of beta testers so that we could get their input and improve the service to release it more broadly. Well, we got LOTS of input! And I’m excited to say that today we’ve hit our next release phase — Windows OneCare is going into consumer beta.
What does this mean? We’ve been able to incorporate the feedback from our beta testers and improved the service so it’s ready for more and more people to use. For newcomers, this means you can now download the beta directly from http://ideas.live.com and avoid the beta nomination process we had in place earlier in the development cycle. One caveat – the quality of our customers’ experience will always be more important than the quantity of testers. So as we scale up there may be times when we direct people to a temporary waiting list; these pauses will allow us to see how we’re doing and assess our readiness to scale to the next level.
Note that while the beta is free, the eventual OneCare service will be “a paid subscription.” Although it doesn’t say so on the signup page, news reports indicate that “a U.S. English version of Windows XP with Service Pack 2″ is required. OneCare is expected to ship in 2006.