Windows Live OneCare will be completely off the market at the end of June (although Microsoft will continue to issue virus definition updates for another year). When Microsoft announced that it was killing OneCare, the company added that it would be releasing free antivirus software in 2009 based on its enterprise-level Forefront security engine. No further information has been forthcoming.
Last week, Reuters leaked a small bit of information: Microsoft is testing an early version of the product with its own employees and it will “soon” make a trial version available.
This will be a very lightweight focused product, not a suite comparable to Trend Micro or Norton’s products, which include everything from an enhanced firewall to parental controls and backup software. I’m picturing something more like AVG’s free antivirus program, but distributed and updated through the Automatic Update system. The idea is to create something so easy that it will be installed on computers in third world and developing countries, which frequently are not updated and do not run security software. A disproportionate number of the computers taken down by malware or hijacked into botnets are in parts of the world where the population is too poor and technically unsophisticated to install paid antivirus software; Microsoft is stepping up to provide an extra layer of protection for computers worldwide. A lightweight antivirus program will also be better suited to the small, lower-powered netbooks and notebooks that are taking over the PC market.
Microsoft’s free software may be the right choice for many of us but it’s still a little while before we get a look at it. I’ll keep you posted!