Microsoft Kills OneCare to Offer Freebie; So Long, Norton

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RIP: McAfee, Symantec, and Trend Micro -- at least in the consumer market.

Microsoft has announced it'll discontinue the retail version of its Windows Live OneCare security suite, effective June 30, 2009, and offer "Morro," a free, stripped-down anti-malware app instead.

This is good news for Windows users everywhere, particularly those in emerging markets, where antivirus and antispyware usage is quite low. For folks in the developed world, Morro means the end of bloated security software and annual protection fees -- usually $20 to $50 -- that keep viruses, spyware, rootkits, Trojans, and other online offenders at bay. Morro will be available in mid-2009 as a free download for Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.

The biggest losers here are the major security software developers, including McAfee; Symantec, maker of the Norton line; and Trend Micro. For years they've run a profitable business selling antimalware programs to consumers, but now that market is essentially dead. Good riddance, I say. These programs were resource hogs-each year getting bigger, slower, more bloated, and adding system utilities and other add-ons that had nothing to do with security. (To be fair, some of these tools, such as Norton Antivirus, have slimmed down recently.)

Security should be a core feature of any operating system. Microsoft, whatever its true intentions, is doing the right thing here. I'm not saying that Morro will be perfect -- no security software is -- but it'll probably be good enough for most home and many small business users. Redmond has too much at stake here to put out a garbage security app. Apple's been gaining market share, in large part due to the Mac's ability to deliver a relatively malware-free experience.

Of course, McAfee and Norton fans will still be able to use their security suites, although I'm not sure why they'd want to. And free alternatives like AVG Anti-Virus programs will still be around, at least for awhile.

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