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Microsoft's free anti-spyware hits market

Windows Defender is a direct challenge to products from security vendors and notches up Microsoft's competitive push.

Microsoft announced on Tuesday the general release of its free anti-spyware program, a move that significantly steps up the software maker's competitive challenge in the security industry.

Windows Defender anti-spyware is now available in English to Windows XP users, with other languages set for delivery in coming weeks. Windows Defender will also be bundled with Windows Vista, Microsoft's next-generation operating system, when it is released in January.

Windows Defender is expected to raise the competitive stakes with security vendors McAfee and Symantec, which charge for their anti-spyware products. The security industry has had a long time to ponder the free anti-spyware product, given that it has been in beta testing since January 2005.

Microsoft also released the Beta 2 test version of its Microsoft Certificate Lifecycle Manager on Tuesday. The software is designed to lower costs for companies that use digital certificates and smart cards by simplifying the maintenance of the certificate system. It aims to ease the administrative process and deployment of the technology, which can be handled through a centralized or self-service management system.