Microsoft Unveils Vista-Compatible Live OneCare Beta

Microsoft on Monday announced a new beta version of Windows Live OneCare. Version 1.5 of the security software is compatible with Vista and available as a free download.

OneCare is the company’s all-in-one, automatic and self-updating PC care service designed to help consumers protect and maintain their PCs. It is another part of Microsoft’s attempt to diversify its software revenue stream.

Preparing for Vista

Microsoft released OneCare 1.0 in June. The original version sells for US$49.95 a year. The differences between version 1.0 and beta version 1.5 are international market support, unified antivirus and antispyware filtering capabilities, additional back-up options, and the ability to run on both Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows Vista beta.

“As we continue to evolve the OneCare service, we are testing new features and functionality in beta before releasing enhancements more broadly,” Gina Narkunas, lead product manager and OneCare team guest blogger, wrote on Microsoft’s blog on Monday.

Microsoft launched the first Live OneCare beta in November 2005. The software goes beyond security with attempts to simplify other essential PC care practices, such as backing up important data and regularly running performance maintenance tasks. The Vista factor is what makes the new beta interesting.

“”This is the first antivirus package available from Microsoft around the time of the Windows Vista launch. Not surprisingly, it supports the new OS. It also integrates more tightly with [Microsoft’s] Defender antispyware offering, which should make PC management easier,” Basex CEO and Chief Analyst Jonathan Spira told TechNewsWorld.

Bold Declarations

Microsoft’s foray into the antivirus market puts it at odds with Symantec and McAfee, among others, which sell competing security products for Windows. The firms are reacting differently to the threat of Microsoft’s full-force entrance into their playing field.

Symantec Chairman and CEO John Thompson last week boldly declared his intention to double the company’s annual sales from $5 billion to $10 billion by 2010, with 10 percent of the company revenue coming from services. The company also launched its Norton Internet Security 2007 product on Tuesday.

McAfee, meanwhile, has accused Microsoft of compromising security in Windows Vista. McAfee recently took out an ad protesting security designs in Windows Vista that it claims will make the operating system less secure.

The ad reads, “For the first time, Microsoft shut off security providers’ access to the core of its operating system — what is known as the ‘kernel.’ At the same time, Microsoft has firmly embedded in Vista its own Windows Security Center — a product that cannot be disabled even when the user purchases an alternative security solution.”

Feeling Threatened

Though Microsoft partners with both companies, some fear these partnerships could come to an end if Microsoft feels it can corner the Windows security market with its proprietary solution.

However, Symantec and McAfee may not have much to worry about, at least in the short-term. The way Spira sees it, “Some buyers will increasingly look to Microsoft to provide all PC management services; on the other hand, other users are skeptical of an all-Microsoft solution, so they will discount this offering regardless of its benefits.”

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