Microsoft Readies Free Antivirus App

Microsoft will soon launch a public beta version of its new free security software product for Windows 7, Vista, and XP Service Pack 3 customers. The antivirus program, which is code-named Morro, will replace Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft's retail security suite, which will be discontinued at the end of this month.

While Microsoft has been relatively quiet about Morro since it announced the project in November, Microsoft is reportedly doing internal tests in Redmond that will be followed by a public beta launch for Morro, according to Reuters. Microsoft has not provided a specific release date for Morro, saying only that the product would launch "soon."

It's unclear how comprehensive Morro will be compared to other security products, but Morro is expected to be a very basic program that will detect standard malware like viruses, spyware, rootkits, and trojans. Morro will only be available via download, as Microsoft does not plan to include Morro with the Windows operating system.

Ever since Microsoft announced plans to release a free antivirus program, tech pundits have said Morro's introduction will be the end of the road for commercial home user products from Symantec (the maker of Norton AntiVirus) and McAfee. Microsoft has had an effect on security software in the past, as OneCare's comprehensive suite of security tools may have prompted Symantec and McAfee to introduce comprehensive security packages of their own.

But saying Morro will kill commercial antivirus products ignores the fact that OneCare, despite boasting a set of comprehensive tools, was considered a flop almost from the moment it debuted. Morro is expected to be nothing more than a stripped-down version of OneCare, which means you'll soon be able to download for free a program that few people wanted in the first place. Granted, free is a hard price to compete against, but will a no-money-down price tag convince you to give up on your current security software?

There are already several free anti-virus programs available for home users from enterprise security firms like AVG and Panda Security. But none of these products have killed off their commercial rivals, so we have to wonder if Microsoft's product will manage to.

In the end, it all comes down to trust. I know tech savvy people who swear by their favorite free antivirus application, and I know others who believe free antivirus software is worthless compared to subscription-based security products.

Just like anything else in the tech world, security software has its die-hard fans and detractors. So the question is will people trust Microsoft with the safekeeping of their computer, and dump their Norton or McAfee subscriptions? It's possible, but I doubt it.

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