Microsoft has said it is gearing up to release a free anti-virus service aimed squarely at competing with products from Symantec and McAfee in particular.
The software giant's employees are already testing an early version of the software, which is codenamed Morro, and Microsoft has said that it will soon release a beta version to the public. The Microsoft spokesperson stopped short of giving an availability date for the trial version, though.
Investors are closely monitoring
the free service amid concerns that it may hurt sales of products from Symantec and McAfee - both billions of dollars of revenue each year with their paid-for anti-virus suites.
Microsoft says that Morro would offer basic protection against a wide range of viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans, which means the company is pitching it against the entry level products from anti-virus software houses such as Symantec and McAfee, which cost in the region of £30 a year.
Officials from both companies said they don't see Microsoft's entry into the market as a threat. Janice Chaffin, president of Symantec's Consumer Division said: "A full Internet security suite is what consumers require today to stay fully protected," while Joris Evers, a spokesperson for McAfee, held a similar opinion. "On a level playing field, we are confident in our ability to compete with anyone who might enter the marketplace," he said, before adding that McAfee is already seeing strong growth despite competition from established free alternatives already on the market.
Symantec and McAfee make most of their money from full security suites which feature encryption, a firewall, password protection, parental controls and data backup in addition to basic virus protection. Microsoft has already tried its hand at this market and failed with Live OneCare, which it killed last November.
Chaffin snubbed Microsoft's attempt to get into the AV market, saying: "Microsoft's free product is basically a stripped down version of the OneCare product Microsoft pulled from the shelves.
Regardless, we look forward to seeing how this plays out - could Microsoft create a viable alternative to the already established free anti-virus suites, let alone more established paid-for products from Symantec, McAfee and others? Share your thoughts in the forums