Microsoft offers security test drive

Beta of Microsoft's OneCare Live security product is available to anyone with a U.S. English version of Windows XP with SP2.

As promised, Microsoft has opened up the test for its forthcoming OneCare Live security subscription product to the general public.

OneCare marks Microsoft's long-anticipated entry into the consumer antivirus market, which has been the domain of specialized vendors such as Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro. Two years ago, Microsoft announced its intent to offer antivirus products when it bought Romanian antivirus software developer GeCad Software.

Microsoft unveiled its plans for OneCare in May. Select testers have been invited to try it since July, and Microsoft recently added features to the beta. The product is now available for testing by anyone with a U.S. English version of Windows XP with Service Pack 2, a Microsoft representative said Tuesday. Final release is expected in 2006.

OneCare is meant for consumers and combines anti-spyware software--which Microsoft is also publicly testing--with antivirus software, firewall software and several tune-up tools for Windows PCs. Microsoft has not announced pricing for OneCare but has said the final package will be offered as a subscription service.

Microsoft is also eyeing the enterprise security market. By year's end, it plans to release an initial test version of a new "Microsoft Client Protection" product to defend business desktops, laptops and file servers against malicious code attacks.

The OneCare beta can be downloaded from ideas.live.com. As the number of testers increases, Microsoft may delay access to the service for some users, the company said in a corporate blog late Tuesday. "These pauses will allow us to see how we're doing and assess our readiness to scale to the next level," according to the blog posting.

The beta will be available at no cost. Microsoft did not specify when the beta will end. But when the final version of the service is ready, testers will be told pricing details and invited to be among the first subscribers, the blog stated.

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